Open source is making headway in the enterprise, but not without some bumps along the way. At Interop ITX Tuesday, a panel examined the challenges associated with open source adoption and what's required for a successful open source initiative.
The panel, moderated by Eric Wright, principal solutions engineer and technology evangelist at Turbonomic, was part of an all-day Open Source IT summit.
"The drive to move faster in the last five years has led people to rethink open source," said Lori MacVittie, principal technology evangelist at F5 Networks. More documentation of open source projects also has helped encourage organizations to consider open source, she added.
Leah Schoeb, an architect at Turbonomic, said whether organizations are ready to take the open source plunge depends on their industry. More conservative industries won't move as fast, nor will technology areas such as storage, where a misstep that corrupts data is a "resume-generating event," she said.
At the same time, open source developers today are taking enterprise requirements into account, such as data storage, into consideration, Schoeb said. "They had to go back and figure out how to handle some of the data services.
Open source requires a cultural shift, MacVittie said. Organizations can be stuck in their ways of selling and building their products, and resist change; they need to see how adding open source can actually enhance their commercial product, she said.
One of the big inhibitors of open source in large organizations is money, Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage, said. "It's easier for them to spend a million on hardware than hire one $100,000 employee. It's invariably true that open source is a kit, not a completed project. You need more hands to assemble the product. They'll buy a commercial product because it's easier," he said.
Schoeb agreed, adding: "Being able to properly support open source means it's a people problem. You will need departments and developers to support it." She advised talking to the CFO to get him or her to understand a new way of doing business, and getting their buy-in.
Open source initiatives require an advocate within the company who sees the benefits of collaboration and figures out a way to monetize the effort, she said. Companies "need to know how they're going to get their investment back."
Wright asked the panelists about the issue of organizations viewing open source as risky because a project might end.
"I would rather use an open source project that works but ended when the lead developer got hit by a beer truck than a piece of software from a startup that that failed to raise" another round of funding, Marks said.
"Standards and serviceability are what our IT department looks at," MacVittie said. If an open source project is standards based, "it makes it easier to switch out if something goes wrong," she added.