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Reality IT: Quelling The Boss' Open-Source Fears

The ACME VP of operations, Huge Bange, returned from a conference where one of the sessions was on the dangers of open-source software. Huge asked our CIO, Steve Fox, if we use open source in our network. Steve assured Huge that we use very little or none (translation: he didn't know).

It's not uncommon for a company exec to get spooked by a particular technology and then run to ask Steve about it. It's also not uncommon for Steve to not know what to say. His next step, typically, is to ask me. We've got open-source software all over the place, and Steve had approved each instance of it, but I didn't want to remind him of that fact without some backup. I told him we would meet later with Dirk Packett, our network manager, and Bucky Rogers, our IT security manager, to discuss it.

Hidden Open Source

Open-source software has crept into our network over time at ACME. I expect it has in your network, too. We usually turn to open source for special situations. For instance, Bucky's crew runs Snort, an open-source IDS. Dirk uses open-source software for redundant SMTP, DHCP, DNS and FTP servers; an antispam application; a time server; and a list server. Dirk and Bucky use several open-source network monitoring and analysis tools. We also have myriad network appliances, all running some form of an open-source OS. Each implementation has been coordinated and approved by Bucky and Dirk through our IT processes for new system approvals.

Our use of open source started from the bottom up, rather than top down, when a network engineer wanted to bring it into the network. We first deployed it on older, unused PCs. As time passed, we realized we needed more reliable hardware, so we moved to small but robust rackmounted servers, mostly single-CPU.

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