Businesses should not expect that the open source community will always provide it with the patches and fixes required to deliver business-grade application support, according to a panel of open source advocates speaking at CeBIT in Sydney.
Jonathan Oxer, President of Linux Australia Inc, said that while the open source community is still capable of supporting businesses by quickly creating new code in response to requests posted online for bug fixes or functionality upgrades, businesses should not expect this form of support will be forthcoming for applications.
"You can still post to the Net and get amazing code in a few hours," Oxer said, before adding that the breadth of open source software makes it increasingly unlikely that this kind of support can be expected to serve as a business-grade service.
Oxer instead recommended that businesses intending to use open source applications work with services companies that specialise in the applications they desire. The investment in expertise and service capability such companies make, he said, will mean they can support open source applications faster than the community alone. The result of this kind of relationship, he added, will be greater innovation than is possible using customisable commercial business software, which he asserted restricts the amount of adaptation possible to business' specific needs.
Another panellist, Cybersource CEO Con Zymaris, said he believes this kind of scenario is not fully appreciated by businesses, which are yet to factor the increasingly professional and voluminous pool of open source service companies into their risk management decision matrices.
Calling current risk management practises as regards appraisal of open source software "immature," Zymaris praised AGIMO's recent open source procurement guide as an important step towards helping business understand how to assess the merits of open source software.
"Get your hands on a copy," he told the audience. "It will change the way you think about open source."
David Purdue, President of the Australian Unix User Group, also participated in the panel and advocated open source software as the most powerful way to spread open standards, and thereby increase interoperability between systems.
Simon Sharwood moderated the panel.