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Open Source...

Open Source software has gained significant momentum as open source alternatives to proprietary software. Proprietary software is becoming obsolete with its steep licensing prices, forced upgrades, and escalating support costs. Open source eliminates licensing fees and puts an end to vendor lock-in, yet offers control and flexibility with community-derived upgrades and enhancements. Determining the right fit and having the confidence that comes with professional support are two of the major challenges facing open source today.

Jertium ( Global ICT Platform ) : Provides business suite is its an industrial strength open-source software solution that combines ERP, CRM and SCM support for business processes. Jertium provides a framework for extending and customizing to meet business needs.

While the most prominent appeal of open source is that it is a low cost alternative to proprietary software, there are many other advantages to adopting open source technologies:

  • Avoids vendor lock-in
  • Easy to customize
  • Promotes collaboration and innovation among peers
  • Achieves economies of scale with community-based sharing and contribution
  • Supports project, team, and code transparency
  • Allows wide range of uses with open licensing
  • Organisational benefits from the use of Open Source Software
  • Reliability
  • Stability
  • Auditability
  • Cost
  • Flexibility and Freedom
  • Support and Accountability

All software applications are built from source code. The source code is the numerous lines of instructions that programmers write for computers to interpret. These instructions tell a computer what to do and how to do it. We can think of the source code as the blueprint for a program and it may be written in any one of the various programming languages used today.

One of the fundamental differences between open source software and proprietary software is that the source code of open source software must be made freely available with the software. Anyone should be able to download the source code, view it, and alter it as they see fit. With proprietary software, you generally cannot view or edit the source code.

There are a number of advantages that open source code offers over closed source:

Bug fixing
Almost all software releases contain bugs. Hopefully, the people developing the software will have spotted and dealt with anything obvious, but any development team has only so much time in which to test a piece of software before it is released.

When a bug is spotted in proprietary software, the only people who can fix it are the original developers, as only they have access to the source code. Open source software is different. As a large number of users can access and change the code, bugs tend to be more visible and more rapidly corrected.

Security
Having access to the source code allows the user of that software to choose the approach to security that they want. In other words it allows you to take ownership of your own security. It also enables certains approaches that are not available with closed source and it is possible to decide on your own security priorities and to allocate resources accordingly.

Customization
Closed source applications can only be customized or adapted within the scope provided by the original vendor but never outside its boundaries. Open source applications may be customized by anyone with the requisite skill. Thus, open source software can be readily adapted to meet specific user needs. Even if you cannot program yourself, if you would like something added or customized you can generally pay an appropriately skilled software developer to do it for you.

Translation
With access to the source code it is easy to translate the language of the software interface. Large closed source commercial software vendors are usually unwilling to translate their products into less widely spoken languages, as the market for them would be too small to guarantee profit.

Avoiding lock-in
Organisations are said to be ‘locked-in’ to software products when the costs of switching to alternatives are prohibitively high.
Proprietary software vendors can ‘lock’ users in to their products by ensuring that they are not readily compatible with potential rivals. Vendors may then increase the price of product upgrades or support without too great a risk of losing existing customers.

As there is no incentive to use non-standard formats to inhibit compatibility, open source software tends to use open standard formats and there is little danger of being ‘locked-in’ by a vendor. Even when non-standard formats are used in open-source code, it is always possible to document them from the source code. On the contrary, closed formats used by proprietary software need to be reverse-enginered, a burdensome and expensive process that may need to be repeated when the format is subsequently changed.

Mitigation of vendor collapse or product discontinuation
Commercial software vendors go bust or get bought up from time to time. When this happens there is no guarantee that their software products will continue to be available, supported, or updated. This can result in users needing to switch products, which can be very expensive and difficult, especially if they were heavily 'locked-in' to their current product.

Even with healthy companies, new releases often mean that older software and format versions are discontinued and no longer supported.

With open source software, this danger is greatly reduced. As the source code is not 'owned' in the same way that proprietary source code is, it may be picked up and developed by anyone with an interest in a product's survival. Unless you are part of an organization with very significant technical resources, you are unlikely to want to take on full responsibility for this, but, thanks to the way in which successful open source projects gather user communities about them, there will probably be other interested parties to share these responsibilities.

Learning from examples
If you are interested in programming, open source code provides an excellent resource from which to learn, and open source projects provide a practical environment in which to test your skills. Just watching the development process can provide an education in itself. If you choose to submit code to an open source project, it will generally be checked and commented on by experienced programmers. Once you have convinced the project community that your code is of appropriate quality, you may be granted full committer rights yourself.

Being part of a community
By adopting open source software you become part of a community of users and developers who have an interest in working together to support each other and improve the software. The extent to which you engage with this community is up to you, but you may obtain the intangible benefits of goodwill if you do.

Programmers in particular can benefit from belonging to an open source community. It can help establish reputation and respect, as well as gaining valuable experience.

Cost
Many open source programs can be obtained at no cost or with a very low cost. This is often an important issue for individuals and in many cases this has been the main reason for an individual adopting a particular open source solution over a closed source alternative.

Organisations that engage with open source software can customize it to attain efficiency benefits or to better suit their own working practices, either via in-house development or by paying external developers. They can also protect themselves to some extent from vendor lock-in, or the possible obsolescence of the software they use.

For further information on how to jump start this Opensource contact ict@jertium.com

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