Open Source Software Essay

Submitted By cmangi85
Words: 1023
Pages: 5

Open Source Software:
Various Perceptions of Higher Education and Small Business

Open source software is often associated with a vision of free, customized software, but the reality is always more complicated. I have recently read two articles that covered two different perspectives and perceptions on adopting open source software. In the first article, Van Rooij (2007) discussed the results of his survey and a series of interviews among decision makers at institutions of higher learning. He documented the perceptions and reasons of hesitation that these decision makers cited in regards to adopting open source software. For the second perspective, Briody (2007) wrote on the successful implementation of open source software for a small business, Backcountry.com, and the numerous benefits that it has gotten from it. The perception of adopting open source software for an organization varies widely, and these two different perspectives should provide a good summary on the advantages and disadvantages of adopting open source software. “Open Source” software is a collaborative effort written by thousands of unpaid programmers around the world. It is free to use, and can be freely distributed and modified by its users. Its adopters argue that it is superior to commercial software, being that thousands of programmers write, review, and optimize the source code versus the typically small team of programmers at one particular company. (Laudon & Laudon, 2006, pg. 195.) Open source software has many benefits, but often requires programming expertise when firms want to customize it. Due to tightening budgets, universities (and other institutions of higher learning) are often pondering whether to make the switch to open source to save cost. However many institutions have hesitations about adopting open source, even though many international educational institutions have successfully adopted open source for their instructional content and delivery systems. (van Rooij, 2007, pg 435.) In his article, van Rooij, also summarizes that the concerns of two main decision makers, the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) and the Chief Information Officer (CIO), have to be addressed in order for most institutions to make the conversion. (2007, pg 434.) It is often the perceptions of these two key individuals that can affect the decision to go with open source, and that is what van Rooij focuses his survey and interviews on. His survey and interviews focused on two main areas. The first involved asking both the CIO’s and the CAO’s what they believe differentiates open source from commercially developed software. The second had to do with presenting a concept of outsourcing the integration and maintenance of the open source systems to a third party, asking if they would be interested, what services they would need, and what price would be reasonable. (van Rooij, 2007, pg 437.) The survey results for the first question were a common theme stating that although they acknowledge the benefits of flexibility in addition to the ability to “control one’s own destiny”, the main “threshold that enables perceived benefits to outweigh perceived risks is the knowledge base of the institution’s own internal IT staff.” (van Rooij, 2007, pg 442.) As for the second main question of outsourcing this knowledge, 15 out of 20 respondents said they were interested, but remain cautious and skeptical about cost overruns (van Rooij, 2007, pg 444.) The author of the study presented a possible solution to the outsourcing cost over- run concerns by presenting a concept where the institutions could “cherry pick” only the outsourcing services they need at a fixed, predetermined cost. For example, an institution might only need to outsource the migration from one system to the other, while another might also need to train their IT staff to customize it after implementation. (van Rooij, 2007, pg 444.) The…