From past 4-5 years i am using open source and branded software products for large enterprise applications. All of these applications had very large number of users base and were very critical to organization. Mostly i have used mix of open source and branded softwares. Though it is quite evident that branded software has a license and maintenance cost but it appears that open source products are "Free". I want to share my views on open source product usage challenges and cost associated with them.
Using open source in enterprise applications have number of challenges. First and foremost is understanding license, licenese of type GPL,Apache are quite open and can be used in commercial application and distributed to customer but licenses like BSD,Artistic are somewhat restrictive. So it is very essential to consult your organizations general counsel before using open source in your product/application.
Second, open source product works great in POC but when used full blown in projects then they give you very hard times because online forums are the only help avenue for such products. So these products are always a major risk to your project plan. I faced a lot of such issues in my project. Open source usage ask for High skill manpower which may become a bottleneck for project and add certain cost of skilled manpower.
Third challenge is maintaining these products as most open source projects are community base so dedicate support is not available for most of them.Moreover most of the time one open source product usage prompts you to use many related open source products which works great in tandem. Soon you have a bunch of open source products in your Application and now to find a person to manage all those is a nightmare. Thankfully now enterprise versions of all popular open source products are coming and they will ease somewhat customer pain. Maintainability is the major concern.
There are many more issues in using open source in an enterprise application but i will not dwell upon all these now. May be in next post.
Having said above things , i am great admirer of open source concept and products. I use all open source for any personal application development and POCs. But i want to bring some of the issues/costs of using such products for enterprise application. Just to Highlight " Open Source usage has a cost".