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ITIL: Open Source vs. Commercial

Oct 14, 2009

Pam Baker

However, open source solutions can be secured as part of the customization process. It is tricky business but it can be done. Drake said that due to the numerous features available with popular open-source apps and the obvious cost advantages, he would choose “open-source solutions that are secured over commercial solutions any day.”

Consideration should expand beyond the basic open source argument and the task at hand and on through execution follow-through, advises Fred Broussard, research director of Enterprise System Infrastructure Software at IDC. Among the questions he would ask are:

  • How is the company that uses open source software within their internal IT environment going to update and maintain the solution in their environment?
  • How "mature" is the open source solution?
  • What mission critical applications will be supported by this open source solution?

If the answers are less than satisfactory, then a commercial application would probably be the better choice.

Although the decision should be based on a variety of factors, Broussard offers the following table as a quick guide in making the decision.

Open Source:

Pros: Cheaper. Possibly easier to modify in-house.

Cons: Not automatically scalable. Not automatically secure. Where do you go for support if the software breaks?

Commercial Solutions:

Pros: Reputable company has experience supporting customers. Can pick from multiple vendors to find solution that best fits your needs.

Cons: Can be expensive. Some solutions use proprietary technology that won't integrate easily in your IT environment.

For some, the nature of the work best defines which solution is best. “From my experience both from the end-user and vendor side of the house, open source typically is best when dealing with a very specific function or task while commercial software tends to provide more scalability and more flexibility within a complex environment,” said Matt Gowarty, product manager at Netcordia.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous cover stories for international, national and regional media from women's and general interest to finance, business and technology magazines, online content and newspapers; analytical studies on technology; and, six books. She is a member National Press Club and Avant Guild/Mediabistro.com. She was 2004 nominee for the Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Relgion (UK) and wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making.