Beware of the OSS Trojan Horse

Open source software (OSS) seems a great idea, particularly for segments of the market like SOA where there are lots of standards - some would even say too many.

After all, the software is free isn't it? Of course, in reality,the decision whether to go with an open source approach to SOA is a lot more complicated than that.

The key thing when considering SOA is to be realistic about the business case, as discussed by Ronan in his recent post. Evaluating the value proposition for open source SOA is a non-trivial exercise.

This is a subject that Ronan goes into in much greater detail in his recent Lustratus Report, "The open source value proposition for SOA", available from the Lustratus web store, where he considers a wide range of factors affecting the final decision.

One point that jumped out at me from the report related to the need to be sure that the chosen OSS solution is not a trojan horse.

The problem is that some open source projects are actually being used as test-beds by commercial vendors, as a way of gaining valuable input and experience that can then be used as part of a future commercial offering.

On the one hand, this can be attractive - after all, if a vendor is driving the project then it is likely that skilled resources will be available to ensure its vitality.

But on the other hand, if the vendor plans a commercial offering then what functions will be reserved for the 'full function' offering? Will these be needed in the future? As Ronan states in the report,

"It is common with the larger vendors in particular to promote OSS as a light weight alternative to their full strength closed source products.

For these vendors, it is essential that due diligence verifies that the OSS solution will be sufficient for all current and future requirements. If this is not the case, the cost of the closed source product must be factored into the business case."

This doesn't mean to say that these projects should be avoided - just that it is wise to consider the gifts the Greeks are bringing, and what's in it for them....