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The open-source imperative for system integrators

Source code may not be useful to many people, but it is critical to system integrators like Optaros.

Open source has been a big winner in the recession, given its ability to drive down costs. For those that think the proprietary world can easily follow suit, however, simply by giving away "express" versions of their software, or through developer programs, Optaros consultant Jeff Potts has some advice: "Try again."

Jeff Potts

It's absolutely true that most open-source code gets used and not modified. Few bother to to view the source code.

But for a system integrator like Potts' employer, Optaros, code is critical. Potts is particularly well-suited to call this out, given that prior to Optaros he was a vice president at Hitachi Consulting where he did Documentum and other proprietary software deployments.

While Potts, in his response to a Documentum developer post, lists several reasons that open source is superior to proprietary software for developers, it's ultimately source code availability that underlies them all:

Developers working with closed source ECM vendors can't see the code. It's obvious, I know. For developers that work with open source it is extremely natural to use the CMS [Content Management System] source code when debugging or for reference. You don't even think about it-it's just there and you use it. Imagine the frustration of someone who works with closed source CMS who has to routinely decompile classes to figure out what's going on. That truly sucks. What good is a "Developer Edition" that doesn't come with source code?

Not much. For system integrators, in particular, source code is essential. Proprietary vendors that treat their products like a "black box" that can only be accessed through a magical API are doing their partners, and hence themselves, a disservice.

Disclosure: Optaros is an Alfresco partner, and also works with a range of open-source CMSes, including competitors to Alfresco.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.