Book Review - Open Source Software: Implementation and Management
Have you ever had a friend ask you how to introduce open source within an organization? Although some may have outstanding answers for this question, few of those answers carry the credibility that top management might require. If, as projected, half of IT professionals in 2005 will consider open source, this might be a question we all will be hearing more often. It would be nice to suggest a credible resource where those posing the question might be able to find some useful answers.
Open Source Software: Implementation and Management, by Paul Kavanagh, may be that resource. Aimed at professional managers and implementors of information technology, Kavanagh provides realistic discussions of the key topics an organization must consider before jumping on the open-source software bandwagon.
For the generalists that Kavanagh targets, he provides a good history of software and open source. His breakdown of where open source is successful sets up the reader to consider fully the strengths and weaknesses of open-source software. The chapters covering opportunities for open source provide some of the best deployment ideas that an organization can choose. Throughout the book, Kavanagh provides references to many of the most important open-source alternatives. These references give readers useful starting points for further research and are accompanied by realistic reviews of the open-source projects.
Probably one of the most frequent questions asked concerns the cost of implementing open source. Here, Kavanagh provides a common-sense process for breaking down this question. One way he simplifies this issue is difficult to refute: "When compared with similar closed code systems, open source systems as a general rule cost:
Much less for software
No more and often less for hardware
If other things are equal, no more for anything else.
Of course, this excludes the staffing costs that typically represent over 60% of the TCO calculation. Therefore, Kavanagh accurately predicts that for now the staffing costs aggregated into switching and sunk costs will delay adoption of open source within most companies.
If an organization wants to participate fully in the Open Source community, they will want employees to contribute to or originate an open-source project. Although Kavanagh provides great advice about how to achieve this participation, too much detail is given concerning the way open-source software is developed and the various application architectures. This material may be beyond the scope of the generalists previously mentioned.
In many cases, Open Source Software hits its target well, but chapter summaries could simplify the key points and make them more accessible. Offering checklists, action guides and other quick references would allow managers and implementors to draw quick and immediate benefits from the book.
Recently, someone did ask me how to best introduce open source into his company. Top management was looking for guidance, and he needed some help. Other than a few links, I really couldn't help much, but now I would suggest Paul Kavanagh's Open Source Software, and rest comfortable knowing they were going to get their questions answered.