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Business Considers Open Source on Par with Commercial Software 121

quad4b writes "At the International Conference on COTS-based Software Systems in Spain last week, representatives from organizations such at the Software Engineering Institute (remember the CMM), National Research Council of Canada and the European Software Institute discussed the inclusion of Open Source Software for the first time on the conference agenda. COTS software includes stuff like commercial operating systems, desktop software, and ERP systems among others. The conference examined best practices for integrating these pre-built components in systems development efforts. They conceded that open source software is essentially no different from commercially built software and that both types have their risks in terms of supportability and security. (what opponents of OSS say is its weakness) Interestingly enough, a senior representative of IBM was present and discussed with some of us, over lunch, how IBM is determined to move to an open desktop based on Linux and OpenOffice within about a year."
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Business Considers Open Source on Par with Commercial Software

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  • Same risks? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by null etc. ( 524767 )
    Oh my, I guess Bill Gates will have to find another message to preach besides "OSS is unsafe, unsupported, and costs more than Microsoft products."
  • That's funny... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:13PM (#11679348) Journal
    I thought I'd read that IBM wasn't interested in OpenOffice - at least for their own use and that they were going down a different path. Go figure. I guess it shows how OOo has really matured lately - 2.0 is indeed really looking good.

    At any rate, it's always been my opinion that OSS programs can only get better when people are forced to USE them. When we see IBM forcing their employees to go down that road, I have no doubt that we will see some positive improvements in the way these programs operate.

    Years ago, Atari sold a line of personal computers and tried to promote them for business use by porting programs like Visicalc. Later it leaked out that all of Atari's corporate machines were PC's. No doubt this was true. There is a saying for this, it's called, 'Eating your own dog food'.

    • I wish they would throw SmartSuite (or whatever it's called these days) into the mix.

      That would impress me (well that and a native linux Notes client). Me and a quite a few businesses.

    • There is a saying for this, it's called, 'Eating your own dog food'.

      My company is trying to get everyone to switch from saying 'Eating your own dog food.' to 'Drinking your own champange.'

      Those yellow bellies in marketing probably spent sleepless nights thinking about how customers would find out we internally compare our software to dog food. Pussies.

    • Why wouldn't IBM open source its already existing office suite known as SmartSuite? I would hope that IBM employees have been using this product inhouse up until this point. My impression was that Smartsuite was a decent product that just got outmaneuvered by Microsoft.
    • "Years ago, Atari sold a line of personal computers and tried to promote them for business use by porting programs like Visicalc. "

      Very unlikly. Visicalc was before the ST line so you would be talking about the Atari 400/800 line. Not really business machines. By the time the STs came out Lotus 123 was the big deal. Frankly the STs Apple Mac, and the Commodore Amiga where much better machines than the PCs of the time. Just goes to show the sad truth. Better does not always win.
    • Well, a nice, simple Google search [] will fill in the details for ya.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:13PM (#11679357) Homepage Journal
    Some countries require that one's acounting system (subset of ERP) to be certified. Has Compierre met this requirement anywhere to date? Do the Big 4 in the US recognize that it has the proper controls?
  • This was a rumour started by an internal memo that had no followup. Is IBM really going to push this all the way?
  • by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:15PM (#11679373)

    With IBM-backed Linux, OpenSolaris on the way, decent open source J2EE along side commercial J2EE, etc. the lines between suitable commercial software and open source software are somewhat blurry. The bar where someone has to start paying for their software is much higher, now, than it ever used to be, that much is certain.
  • by October_30th ( 531777 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:16PM (#11679385) Homepage Journal
    Software Engineering Institute (remember the CMM), National Research Council of Canada and the European Software Institute

    Uh... so, at least for us who are not in the software business but are interested in OSS anyway, it would be nice to know how much influence these institutes actually wield. Are they really "the business" as the subject let's us to believe or something else?

    • Are they really "the business" as the subject let's us to believe or something else?

      At least for the Software Engineering Institute, they are clearly "the business." IIRC, even the government has CMM requirements for some contracts. Management salivates over the SEI daily in many companies, at least until they finally understand the CMM provides no process at all but only recommendations.
      • FYI, the Software Engineering Institute [] is Carnegie Mellon University's Department-of-Defense-sponsored research center whose "core purpose is to help others make measured improvements in their software engineering capabilities and to develop the right software, delivered defect free, on time and on cost, every time."
      • by Anonymous Coward
        1. Management salivates over the SEI daily in many companies, at least until they finally understand the CMM provides no process at all but only recommendations.

        In most cases, management is forced to be "SEI CMM Level II/III/... compliant" by some customer who wants that.

        CMM -- as it should be -- doesn't dictate process. It does say that there is a documented process and how it should behave. This allows each project or group to choose how to be compliant. That takes work.

        As management often is loo

      • From what I've been able to ascertain, at least through our company, we had to be at least CMMI Level 3 certified before we (continued) to gain new government contracts.
    • The National Research Council of Canada is a federal government department, very influential in their own minds (but maybe not in anyone else's).

      Can't tell you anything about the others.
    • National Research Council of Canada []:

      NRC is composed of over 20 institutes and national programs, spanning a wide variety of disciplines and offering a broad array of services. We are located in every province in Canada and play a major role in stimulating community-based innovation.

      NRC institutes and programs are organized into three (3) key areas:

      * Physical Sciences and Engineering
      * Life Sciences and Information Technology
      * Technology and Industry Support
    • There are a couple posts here about NRC Canada. What kind of influence you say? I'd say a hell of a lot since they give out loads of grants and loans every year. Much of the work I do for my employeer is funded via tax grants.

      What I would like to see is OSS specific tax breaks for companies.
  • What is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:16PM (#11679392) Journal
    OK, I read the CMU COTS [] site, and their overview [] and still have no idea what the term means. (Some consolation is that the submitter himself, who seems to have attended the conference, doesn't seem to understand it either, judging from the assertion that there is "COTS software", not just software that can be implemented in a COTS approach.)

    Two things, though:

    1) This is hardly a declaration that "Business Considers..."

    2) There is a complete confusion of licensing ("open-source") with development practice ("commercially built").

    • let the wild-ass guesses begin!

      COTS: commercial off-the-shelf?

      • Yup, a few levels down I ran into a definition. I guess the submitter was correct in referring to "COTS software" (I'll let the redundancy police worry about the S in COTS), but his explanation still doesn't inspire much confidence.
    • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Informative)

      by djmurdoch ( 306849 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:23PM (#11679479)
      Try Googling:

      COTS = Commercial Off-The-Shelf

      I think CMM = Capability Maturity Model, but I still have no idea what it means.

      ERP = (probably) Enterprise Resource Planning

      OSS = Open Source Software (but you probably knew that...)

      • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Informative)

        by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:34PM (#11679596) Homepage Journal
        CMM is in fact the Capability Maturity Model, from the SEI.
        Here's more info [].

        There are 5 levels. It's damn near impossible to get a level 5. IBM Federal Systems (later Loral) was certified Level 5. They did shuttle avionics. When I worked for a major defense contractor, it was a huge success when we were certified Level 3.
      • I was in a CMM L3 center in Minneapolis. They got certified at L3 at first review, an impressive accomplishment. My project was the case review for the cert.

        Notably, I wrote a lot of code on that project, maybe 25% overall, including much of the hard stuff, and my stuff was pointedly hidden from the reviewers, because I was bypassing paperwork in order to meet our strict deadline. But I eventually backfilled the most important stuff, and I would say that the certification was accurate.

        I have to say that
        • I thought the point of CMM was to chuck cheaper, sacrafice faster, and replace "better" with "reproducible". The part that it does do well is demonstrate that all problems are the customers fault for not providing coherent specifications.
    • by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:27PM (#11679525)

      COTS is the term people use when they say they are saving money by spending millions of dollars on commercial software and spending more millions customizing it for their business.
    • Well, when most business or academic administration types talk about open source, what they mean is "OpenOffice and/or Apache running on GNU/Linux systems." So in some publications, if you see "open source," read "Linux."
    • COTS = Commercial Off The Shelf

      eg COTS Software = Commercial Off The Shelf Software
    • COTS is software that is general purpose, packaged by a third party and generally offered for sale. Windows XP is COTS, SAP is COTS, Siebel is COTS, MS Word is COTS. What's there not to understand?

      Perhaps you are confusing this with a system that can be made up of COTS, OSS and custom software.

      In terms of "Business Considers" I know a bank that uses OSS (not just Linux but Perl, JUnit and other Java stuff) for building production systems. There are many other examples.
    • 2) There is a complete confusion of licensing ("open-source") with development practice ("commercially built").

      Yes, but every time RMS says that we should talk about proprietary versus free software rather than open source versus commercial, he gets laughed off the stage as a communist hippy zealot...

  • by Prophetic_Truth ( 822032 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:17PM (#11679403)
    I thought IBM was having trouble [] doing that?
  • Ouch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:18PM (#11679419)
    Software Engineering Institute (remember the CMM)


    If there's one thing everyone at SEI is tired of if the CMM thing.

    If you've ever met someone from SEI you've probably blurted out "Oh, the CMM people", and got a response "We do more than CMM!". I know I've done it, and got the impression that they're sick and tired of it

    Just something to keep in mind if you meet one of them. Of course, I still don't know what else they've done :)
  • Haleluja ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:18PM (#11679420)
    how IBM is determined to move to an open desktop based on Linux and OpenOffice within about a year.

    It's about time IBM took another whack at you know who .....

    Now let's hope this gets upgraded from the lowly status of a mere rumor to the lofty status of a fact and results in a flood of out-of-the-box fully Linux capable of Laptops. :-D

    • With Sun, IBM, Novell, Linspire, Xandros, and others catering from ol' granny to Fortune 100, Linux + is a good thing. Microsoft is probably in a delusional fantasy about MS Office, right now. Poor guys...not!

    • how IBM is determined to move to an open desktop based on Linux and OpenOffice within about a year.

      IIRC, initiatives like this are occurring at other businesses, like Sun and Novell.

      I'd be curious to know how things are going. While things are constantly getting better and better, my memory was that interoperability for Microsoft indoctrinated office workers was enough of hurdle that roll-outs tended to be mostly voluntary, mostly within the ranks of technical staff like programmers, or for dedicated ap

    • Oh yeah! Give me that CELL based Linux desktop right away! I sure hope that is what they will launch :) - next year :(
  • by scenestar ( 828656 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:20PM (#11679447) Homepage Journal
    Ill assume that with "os" they mean free.

    It isnt very surprising that a lot of companies are switching from expensive propietary software to freely distributable OS software.

    A good example why, are companies that use photoshop for some basic image editing. They are paying huge license fees for software that isn't even used for its full potental.

    For them it doesnt matter that GIMP has "less" features, since most of them aren't needed.
  • Makes sense with ERP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:21PM (#11679463)
    Most companies will pay multiples more in support than they ever do licensing run-time and source code. In some cases the out-of-the-box functionality is even less important than the support role since most ERP implementations are customized at some level. In many ERP cases, you are buying into a support relationship to run a critical aspect of your business. The actual software/platform is secondary.
  • IBM? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kaleco ( 801384 ) <greig,marshall2&btinternet,com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:25PM (#11679502)
    IBM moving to open source desktops within a year?

    Obviously they're just angling for a discount from Microsoft ;)

  • EDMS. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So were are all the good open source EDMS []?

  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:29PM (#11679546) Homepage mean most open source software is also a buggy resource hog and doesn't live up to the author's exagerated claims?
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:34PM (#11679594) Homepage Journal
    IBM has historically been a good barometer for change. Generally, if a company as big as IBM is going for it, a lot of other people will go for it. They adopted MS-DOS for the PC, and look what happened with that!
    • And IBM's PC division chose Windows 95 over OS/2 Warp.
      • Didn't choose, they were forced into it by their OS/2's division's poor marketting... IBM would always have preferred to sell you OS/2, and until recently all their x86 hardware was available with OS/2 preinstalled. I got my thinkpad with OS/2, i couldn't get it without an os atall, so i figured i'd rather pay for OS/2 than windows.
        • Poor marketing?! Are you kidding? I loved those Warp ads with the nuns and the surfing dudes.

          The fact that hardly anyone seeing the ads knew what IBM was selling was beside the point. What mattered was that viewers vaguely knew that if you bought Warp nuns could surf the internet and businessmen would have more time for actual water surfing. I strongly commend IBM for brining such pressing concerns into our nation's consciousness.
    • Apple is a far better company to watch for change. They were the first to manufacture a useful PC (the Apple II). They were the first to manufacture a PC with a GUI (the Mac). They were the first to make PCs with a network connection by default (the Mac). They were the first PC company to move to RISC CPUs (the PowerPC). They were the first to remove the floppy. They were the first PC company to ship and OSS-based OS on all their machines.

      While IBM may have more clout in the business world, it's Apple that

      • by Anonymous Coward
        While IBM may have more clout in the business world, it's Apple that sets trends. Watch what Apple does.

        How long untill Apple's 2% market share trend catches on?
      • Actually, the first company to ship a computer with a GUI was Commodore with the Amiga. It was also the first PC with true multitasking, and the first PC with dedicated hardware processors for audio and video. The Mac came shortly after, and magazines at the time rated the Amiga higher then the Mac. Unfortunately Commodore totally sucked at marketing and did not further develop the Amiga much beyond its initial release.
        • Actually, the first company to ship a computer with a GUI was Commodore with the Amiga.

          What year?

          Apple shipped the Lisa in January 1983. I am not aware of what year the Amiga was first shipped. I thought it wasn't until at least 1984 (or later?). I would be interested to know if the Amiga truly beat Apple to the GUI.

          The Lisa was the predecessor to the Mac. A sophisticated GUI. Actually superior to the original Mac in many ways.
          • What year?

            You're dead on. The first Amiga shipped in July 1985.

            This is well after Apple shipped the Lisa (arguably not a PC but a workstation), the Lisa 2 (January, 1984), the original 128K Macintosh (January, 1984), the 512K (Fat) Mac (September, 1984), and even the Macintosh XL (January, 1985).
        • No, Apple had the GUI first... Amiga came along a couple of years later with a much better one which offered (as you describe) true multitasking, hardware accelerated video and sound (and dma for floppy access etc)
          AmigaOS was always technically superior to MacOS, and had a much larger market share... The problem was, commodore marketted them towards gamers and didn't keep the lead they had.
    • a barometer doesn't create pressure, it just measures it.
      • Yes, he is saying that watching what IBM does is a good barometer of the industry as a whole. If IBM makes a change, it is likely the rest of industry will too. So not only is IBM a barometer, its a barometer that may be able to see slightly into the future.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:44PM (#11679707)
    It may not be "commercial", but OSS is more complete than its proprietary competition. All jokes about self-documenting code aside, I'd rather have access to the source code than to some vendor's documentation of what they think their code does. Seeing inside the box is useful when an API contains undocumented "features."
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:44PM (#11679709) Homepage Journal
    There's certainly a few as noted here before, perhaps 10,000 albeit not well supported and still some birthing pains as well you could imagine with VPNs, Wireless, Lotus Notes, net meeting type apps and internal Web apps and Web Java apps. Just like any other large company with a large suite of internal applications.

    Moreover you could guess that taking machines out of service before end of lease, to replace the entire suite of software on them, then send them back, train people and staff a help desk for it is not really a rational goal.

    I don't think anyone thinks that migrating everyone or a large chunk of everyone from Win to Linux is going to be any easier than the migration from OS/2 to Win several years ago. And that was quite hard.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that your most difficult desktop users, the ones with the most complicated and inflexible requirements are the executives and if they have an app on Windows that absolutely must run the way they want it to run then that is what will happen. Period.

    Plus you'd be wasting all the monies you invested in desktop tools for AV and spyware if you suddenly didn't need or couldn't use them anymore.

    I think it's bravado to claim that there will be nothing but Linux desktops inside of one year.
    • If you didn't need AV anymore, it's not a waste of the AV nonsense - it's saving, as you don't need the AV anymore. Use your head here.

      Corps pay for AV, often by the month. Why would they want to keep paying for it if they didn't need it anymore?
      • Because large companies enter into long term agreements with companies to provide tools and services with payments predicated on the projected useful economic life of that tool or service. What kind of sense would it make to suddenly end a muliyear agreement with a vendor and buy out your own contract just because you didn't need it anymore? Not much, that's what.

        Transition costs are enormous, you use your head.
        • Yes, but the cost of sticking with the platform can also be quite large. People just don't notice it because it is status quo. They just see this huge new transition cost and get scared away, without really realizing that it could save them some money.

          In IBM's case, maybe it wouldn't even save them any money (their transition costs would be enormous as you say, and they have a lot of in-house Windows expertise built up over the years). But if IBM wants to get serious about moving their customers to Linu
  • by m2bord ( 781676 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @02:46PM (#11679735) Homepage Journal
    sometimes open source software works better than a commercial gimp, apache, open office.

    and sometimes non-open software is better...i.e. macromedia's flash.

    and until someone creates a non-open or open equivilent.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Open source software IS (or can be) commercial software. The dichotomy is open source vs proprietary.

    Get it right next time please.

    And on that note, free software is (or can be) commercial software. If you don't believe me ask Redhat, Novell and Sun. They have been selling free software for years.
    • Open source software IS (or can be) commercial software. The dichotomy is open source vs proprietary.

      Proprietary means it is owned. OSS is still owned. The license is different.

      I prefer the distinction as free licensed vs pay licensed.
  • Netbeans, JBoss, JUnit, Jonas, Stuff from Apache,,... I don't know where to start or to end. Nowadays, one can build, deploy and run an entire Enterprise App with OS Software.
    • However much I would like it like that, please name one enterprise that has done it. No, not only implementing Linux, but actually run the entire enterprise with FOSS.

      I for one, don't believe that an enterprise (that typically want profit) has a strategy to buy/build/blend FOSS. They want stability, performance and even security(!) in their systems, not FOSS for FOSS sake.

      If a certain FOSS application/system fits the picture, fine, but it appears that it still doesn't apply for an entire enterprise su
  • in planing sw dev for a defense project, the build vs buy criteria for systems that will be put to life and death use includes a "trust" criterium. Leaving aside Microsoft bashing, the rationale used in assessing that criteria is "how could there be malicious features in code that is already in use by millions of people? must be ok". Whether you consider that a valid yardstick is beside the point: OSS is only the more trustworthy because you can and hundreds have examine[d] the code.
    • In case you are wondering why one would bring DOD software acquisition practices into the comments here:
      1. COTS is DOD-speak for "boy are we ever glad we don't have to pay Raytheon's salary scales just to get a damn editor and OS". ...they invented the term.
      2. Guess who ulitmately puts up most of the money for and pays the most attention to guidelines promulgated by the SEI?
    • Open source is COTS. the important part of the COTS formula is that it be off-the-shelf, that is, easily obtainable through myriad government regulations and purchasing standards. download and go is the ultimate in cutting through red tape. Many commercial off the shelf systems end up as completely un-intergrable black boxes, that need specialist care and feeding. Far better to use Open source and have a fighting chance of integrating disparate applications together (a better form of server consolidatio
  • I'm running a Linux desktop at work (I'm allowed some freedom - nobody else is doing this) and it's mostly IBM tools that force me to include VMWare in the setup.

    Particularly annoying examples in our ERP's iSeries (AS/400) environment are the iSeries Navigator tool, and Websphere Dev Studio for iSeries. More and more OS/400 functions are only managable through Nav, and the CODE/400 components of WDSCi make source patching for the ERP a breeze. But the only discussions I've seen of integrating RPG editing

  • I believe this one should be from the "damning with faint praise" department.
  • So, businesses understand that OSS is just as good as commercial software and we didn't even have to sell out [] to do it.

  • Last time I read something about IBM and Linux was they had effectively become ashamed of their lack of effective rollout with Linux in house... I find it interesting that some are still selling the notion of Linux on IBM yet abroad now rather than in the states. What gives, are we getting two-speak from IBM?
    • The problem is that most of IBM's coders are Windows guys. Many of their configuration utilities will be written only for Win32. For example, if you want to use their rack configuration utitlity, you need Windows.

      Much of their in house stuff was written for Windows, and some of it for IE only. I think IBM is ashamed of this, but wouldn't it be intersting if they instead used their own bad experience to sell Linux. Something along the lines of "You see, this is what happens when you lock yourselves to o

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