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Debate: To tame 'wild' open-source deployments

Open source brings benefits too weighty to rein in with chief information officers' regulation. A perceived intellectual-property landmine is generated from FUD.

Baseline is suggesting that chief information officers would do well to get "wild" deployments of open-source software under control. I'm not sure that I agree.

The magazine article characterizes the primary threat of having 85 percent of enterprises adopting open source, according to Gartner, as a potential intellectual-property landmine. I struggle to see how it's any different from purchasing proprietary solutions.

Some may argue that it's different because you get indemnification with your commercial software purchase. Please. Have you seen how limited and constrained those are, and do you really think that commercial software protects intellectual property better?

No, the IP concern, while valid, is mostly a canard left over from previous generations of FUD against open source.

The biggest threat to CIOs is not IP risk with open source. It's that they'll continue to dump money down the drain with incumbent vendors who demonstrate little ongoing value yet charge ongoing maintenance fees. IP risk is finite. Wasted money is much less so.

Regardless, even if there is a risk of IP violations, those can be resolved at the point of production, not adoption. Hewlett-Packard's open-source policy is--or was back when I worked with the company while helping to form Novell's open-source review board under the advice of HP--to set up a review before a product incorporating open source went into production. This left the engineers free to experiment with open source until that point, thereby leaving them free from stifling regulations until the point that it actually mattered.

Enterprises should be concerned if they're not getting enough open source right now, not if they're getting too much. The cost savings and often superior software that come with open source are significant benefits that no CIO should attempt to strangle with heavy-handed policies that crimp adoption.

Regulation is fine, but let it come at the point that projects are set to go into production, not evaluation.


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