Taking the next step with open source

Here’s how to assess an open-source community.

By now everyone knows that open-source software can be a cheaper alternative to proprietary software, though there are costs associated with hosting and support. So, how can you tell if open-source software might be a good fit for your campus?

According to Ken Ingle, executive director of emerging technology at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., there are a set of considerations every school should use to determine its fit with open source, as well as a rubric to make implementation as effective as possible.

“We’ve come a long way since the stereotype of a bearded nerd sitting over a computer in a dark basement somewhere using code,” said Ingle during the “Making the Case for Open Source” session at the 2012 EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, Colo. “By now, most of us know that open source is free software, shared and developed by a community for the betterment of the community as a whole.”

Perhaps surprisingly, many successful companies currently use open source, noted Ingle, including Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. Some common applications of open source can be found in Linux-based data centers, Firefox and Chrome applications, Gmail and Office 365 cloud solutions, and the Mac OS desktop.

However, Ingle also noted that just because the software is free initially doesn’t mean there aren’t costs associated with it.

“Think of it as the difference between a free cat and a free beer,” he said: “The cat may be free, but you have to pay for support and upkeep; there are really no costs associated with a free beer, except maybe a hangover.”

Sifting through the hype

According to Ingle, it’s important to begin the conversation about open source by separating fact from fiction…

To read the full story on our higher-ed site, eCampusNews.com, click here.

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Meris Stansbury

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