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By David F. Carr
Open source projects tend to proliferate around the utility functions of computing—operating systems, programming languages, code libraries and frameworks, development tools, network services, network monitoring, and so on. Some of these may seem beneath the notice of the corporate CIO trying to capture the attention of the board of directors with big strategic initiatives built around big enterprise technology initiatives. Still, there are at least two reasons to pay attention to open source technology:
- There may be technologies your organization could be taking advantage of, but isn't, to drive down costs, to experiment with new technologies in a low cost way, or to allow the creation of custom software based on open source components. (Of course, a CIO must always remember that free isn't really free if the technology is used inappropriately and winds up costing you more in support costs than you save in licensing fees.)
- There may be open source technologies in your environment that you don't know about and may not be managing properly. Even if you consider yours to be a Windows shop and prefer to the comfort of a contract with a blue chip vendor, open source is likely to sneak in somewhere. Heck, even Microsoft supports some open source projects these days, and many open source products are available for Windows as well as Linux (or even for Windows only).
With those reasons in mind, CIOZone present its list of 50 Top Open Source Resources CIOs Should Know. To put our list together, we scanned various open source listings, consulted other respected open source rankings, took the pulse of open source experts and then added our own judgments.
Note that this is a list of open source projects CIOs should know—either because they have proven to be useful business tools or because they may have already established themselves in a number or organizations. It is not a listing of the most popular. Nor is it a ranking of the best open source projects.
In fact, five of the technologies on this list (Apache Geronimo, JBoss, Zlib, Lib-TIFF, and NET-SNMP) were chosen partly because they made Palamida Inc.'s list of "The Top 5 Most Overlooked Open Source Vulnerabilities for 2007." To be clear, that's not a reason not to use them—they're on the list largely because they're popular and useful, not because they're particularly buggy, and in each case, a patch that addresses the vulnerability is available. So it shouldn't be anything to worry about if the software is up to date and properly patched—the concern is it may not be if it was downloaded rather than procured and then installed and forgotten as part of some aborted project. Palamida makes software that will scan your systems for the presence of open source software. And while open source enthusiasts don't appreciate having their technology scanned like some kind of virus, Palamida says the point is not to scare anyone away from open source but to help organizations manage it properly. In addition to any security risks, there's a chance you may be exposing your company to liability by violating the open source licensing terms—particularly if you don't know that the software is there or what those terms are.
Other resources we consulted include a top 50 list of open source business applications from a presentation by David Uhlman, CEO of open source software vendor Uversa Inc., and a poll on the most popular open source products at the Grupthink website.
We then made a judgment about what CIOs and other IT executives would most likely be interested in. Our list excludes most software such as personal information managers and desktop graphics software programs in favor of network, middleware, and Web technologies, as well as those that would be relevant to an enterprise strategy for desktop software alternatives.
Some products on this list are supported by a few individuals, some by large communities, and others by corporations. Some may not meet everyone's definition of open source software or free software. Once you know what open source technologies you have or want to have in your enterprise, the next challenge is to understand the specific licenses and the organizations that stand behind them.
For a comprehensive listing of open source technologies try Wikipedia's list of open source software packages. Say what you will about Wikipedia as a reference source for other purposes, but it's an embedded source in the open source movement.
Next: The Top Open Source Resources