Review: “Open Source for the Enterprise: Managing Risks Reaping Rewards”

It is no secret…I think Open Source Software can be of tremendous value to some organizations, but up until quite recently, books on the subject tended to focus more on the tools than on the business cases in which value might be realized. This is probably quite typical when innovators and early adopters of technology try to impart the value to others…the message tends to contain information that is “cool” rather than truly valuable from an evaluation standpoint.

Woods and Guliani’s Open Source for the Enterprise: Managing Risks Reaping Rewards is a refreshing departure from the norm in books covering Open Source technologies for business. It clearly dissects the subject of Open Source, providing useful business-level processes organizations can put to work immediately to evaluate the viability of F/OSS tools for their organization. Regardless of your current stance on Open Source, pro or con, this text may be an eye-opener…and may even change your decision-making paradigm on the subject.

How one goes about assessing software project maturity, adoption risks, “true” costs and potential returns, the development of controls, and the navigation of licensing issues are all covered tremendously well from a business perspective. The licensing information, in particular, is worthy of praise, as it debunks some of the “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” rhetoric that often plagues adoption, and presents the facts as they exist now…both light and dark. As an added bonus, the authors wrap-up the text with several appendices detailing the most popular or valuable (from a business perspective) Open Source projects in the primary categories about which businesses care the most.

I recommend this book highly for technical and business managers alike. It provides insights that can help create a common language with which to approach Open Source Software in the enterprise as a strategic initiative rather than simply as a back-room cost-saving tactic. Because the presentation of the topic is so well-balanced, I intend to incorporate it into one or more of my classes…and that’s saying something!

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