Never underestimate the amount of open source software available

Jack Wallen is fond of making bold claims. Here, he makes yet one more with regards to the amount of open source software available to meet the needs of business users. Read on and see if you agree with Jack.

Since starting the DIY IT Guy column here on Techrepublic I have found that so many people have severely under-estimated the amount of open source software available. In fact, I would lay claim that the amount of quality open source software far outweighs the amount of quality proprietary software.

That's a bold claim, I know ... but it's one I firmly believe in.

When I was tasked with DIY, I knew how it was going to wind up. Think about it; a blog focused on the DIY crowed with a "cut costs" take on all things IT. Where would you think that would lead? Microsoft? Apple? Proprietary software? Nah ... it lead straight to open source and all it has to offer.

Many of you know I have been dealing with open source for quite some time (over a decade). So I was no slouch to what the open source community had to offer. But what I've discovered took me by surprise. What's that you ask? Simple:

If you need something, more than likely there is an open source solution for it. I know, I know ... I can already hear the naysayers tearing down the claim. But the truth of the matter is, open source is everywhere. And, surprisingly, in the world of business, open source is rampant. You need a CMS? Open source has it. You need HRM tools? Open source has it. You need blogging tools, portal tools, publishing tools, financial tools ... the list goes on and on.

But what really surprises me is the ignorance that seems to be rampant, even among seasoned IT types. No matter what market you work in, no matter how large or how small, you will find a majority of IT pros simply don't realize how much open source software there is out there. And I'm not just talking about X Kill Bill, xterm, or Firefox. I'm talking about really useful, feature-rich, software that can serve anyone from a single user up to an enterprise-class deployment.

Just take a look at Sourceforge, one of the most popular repositories of open source software, and you can search among (as of this writing) 305,169 open source titles. That's a huge number of open source projects. Of course I realize that not all of them are viable business-grade applications. But let's say only five percent of those titles are business-grade ... that still leaves 15,258 titles to choose from. How can anyone argue that number? You could lowball it even more and say only two percent, which still leaves 6,103 titles. We're still looking a a fairly sizable number of software titles that are open source (most of which will also be free of charge.)

Those numbers can not be argued with. Those number tell a tale in direct counterpoint to popular belief. Most all IT support companies or software makers will drop all sorts of FUD on the business and general public firmly stating there is simply not enough software to go open source. To that I call shenanigans. Back in November, 2009 I wrote a blog here on Techrepublic titled, "The Linux Consultant: The Maytag Repairman of the IT World". That blog made another bold statement that the main reason why most IT consultancies and support groups don't deploy Linux more often is the loss of revenue due to the operating system simply not breaking. Even nearly two years later (I can't believe it's been that long) I still hold that claim is true and my findings with the amount of open source software out there helps to validate that claim.

I want to see more people suggesting and deploying open source software. It's not what it used to be and the options available are amazing. In fact, I would challenge anyone to come up with a need that open source can not fill. If you think you have one, post it here and we'll see if we can't continue to refute those claims.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....