When you should open-source your internal apps | Open Source - InfoWorld

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OpenSources_hdr_blog09_1_2
Enterprise IT departments should revisit their application development strategies to follow some of the approaches used by Facebook and Twitter, argues RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady in a recent blog post. Specifically, he says you should invest application development resources only in applications that differentiate your business from your competitors, and rely on open-sourcing and permissive licensing to extend your reach and your development dollars. I believe he's right.

Unfortunately, most organizations develop too much software that doesn't really differentiate them; they should be using packaged or open source software instead for those needs and refocus their internal development efforts higher up the business value "stack."

Django is a perfect example of this concept. Django started as an in-house development project to manage several news-oriented sites for The World Company of Lawrence, Kansas. It was released publicly under a BSD license in July 2005. This company very astutely recognized that releasing this project under an open source license would be a win-win situation for the company that funded the initial development as well as the open source community. For a traditional media company, this is a particularly progressive step.

During my twenty-five or so years of technology consulting, I've witnessed many in-house software development projects. Large or small, too often companies tend to believe their needs are too special for any sort of off-the-shelf solution. The true stumbling block tends to fall into the category of "we've always done it this way". Outdated processes and an unwillingness to change force overworked IT staff to build an in-house solution where feature creep is rampant and the project never meets expectations. At the same time, development costs skyrocket far beyond the cost of even the most expensive off-the-shelf alternative. If a close open source alternative exists, those same developers could work within the community to enhance the project and submit code back to the project for inclusion and benefit both the company and the community.

But once a company has gone down the path of in-house development, it would be wise for them to take advantage of the open source community to accelerate the development process at a much cheaper price while achieving a much more feature-rich product. Django is just one example of such a success story. There are many others. Entire businesses have been launched and become profit centers in their own right using this strategy. The bad news is that the thinking amongst executives in most companies is too out-dated and secretive to take advantage of this strategy. The good news is that for progressive companies, real opportunities still exist.

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