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Software(OSS) and It's Uses
|What is Open
Open Source Software (OSS) is software that is available under a special
license that allows everyone to access the program code as well
as the executable program. This means that anyone is able to
edit the program code and therefore customise the software for
their own needs.
This ability to access the source code is protected by the license under
which the software is released. There is a great many Open
Source licenses, but they all have one thing in common, they
protect the right of the user of the software to access and
modify it in any way they desire.
This ability to modify applications is in direct contrast to the Closed
Source Software model. In Closed Source only the creator of the
application has access to the source code, and therefore, only
the creator is able to modify the application.
Being able to change the way an Open Source Software application operates is
critical in many business environments. No two businesses are
identical and therefore it is unlikely that any one piece of
software will satisfy the needs of all potential users. Without
the ability to modify their software a company is restricted in
its operations by that software.
While it is true that no two businesses are identical, it is also true that
there are a great many common business practices that are
repeated across organisations. These common practices can be
well served by "standard" software. The remaining practices,
those that are different from competitors are, typically, the
ones that give a business an advantage in the marketplace.
Since these non-standard practices are key to the organisations success it
is critical that any software solutions adopted by the company
also support these non-standard processes. It is in this need to
adapt software to a companies specific needs that makes Open
Source Software attractive. Since the company has access to the
source, the application can be freely adapted to suit the unique
requirements of each user.
Who Pays for Open Source Development?
The ability to customise software is critical to allow an organisation to
continue to improve their business processes, but how does a
company afford to pay for such customisations?
One of the side effects of allowing any user access to the source code is
that the cost of acquiring the software in the first instance is
massively reduced. In most cases the source code is available
for no cost. This enables the user to divert resources normally
allocated to pay software license fees into enhancing the
A successful Open Source Software project has a large community of software
developers. Many of these developers work as independent
contractors and can be employed to customise the software,
alternatively, if a company has internal developer resources,
they can leverage those skills to perform the customisations.
Does it Really Work?
This all sounds fantastic, but does it really work? Are there Open Source
Applications in use in the real world?
Here are a few facts to convince you that it most certainly does work:
- Around 70% of web sites are served by the Open Source Apache HTTPD server.
- In a 2002 survey it was found over 31% of UK and nearly 42% of German
companies were using or planning to use OSS.
- In 2001, Debian (an Open Source Operating System), contained over 55
million lines of code and was estimated to have consumed over
14,000 person years in development time. That is a development
cost of around 1.89 Billion Dollars (US) yet it is still
available with no license fees.
About the author:
Scott Morris manages his personal site on americancoder and coder
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