Monday, June 30, 2008

How Much Open Source Are You Using?

In India this week, Bernard Golden touts the advantages of governance for your open source tools — especially at the enterprise level.

He starts with an anecdote that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz shared shortly after the company had acquired the MySQL open source database. It goes something like this: After the CIO of a large financial institution told Schwartz the organization didn’t use MySQL because it was a proprietary software shop, a sales associate accompanying Schwartz was able to share that the organization had downloaded the open source database 1,300 times in a six-month period.

The CIO was completely unaware that the application was popular among her staffers, let alone being used in the organization. Golden points out that in such cases, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance could, in such cases, prove risky — both in terms of meeting open source license requirements and because it means the CIO doesn’t have as much visibility into the organization’s infrastructure as she probably ought to have. That’s why, he says, companies should have policies in place to address downloading open source programs in an enterprise environment, and they should also implement controls with which to enforce those policies.

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