The joys and sorrows of Open Source

Like most people who run large web-based projects, I’ve had good and bad experiences with open-source software. Generally, I’m very pro open source, for the simple reason that it enables me to offer better (much better!) value to Chalkface’s customers.

Where I’ve had bad experiences, they have been a result of my failure to weigh carefully the advice of over-zealous advocates for the open source movement. Given this, I was fascinated to read Michelle Levesque’s paper Fundamental issues with open source software development (via OL Daily). She correctly identifies all the issues I’ve faced and gives some very sound advice on dealing with them. If you are making an open source vs. proprietory decision, make sure this is on your reading list!

The timing of this article is particularly apposite because we are this week in the process of installing a new development server with a new software configuration. If successful this configuration will be carried forward to our main production cluster in about six months’ time. The new configuration is:

  • Operating system: Gentoo Linux (was Red Hat Linux)
  • Web server: Apache (no change)
  • Java server: Tomcat (was Jrun)
  • Database: MySQL (no change)

This represents a further shift towards open source. JRun is a fully proprietory product, and Red Hat has become a licensed product even though it’s a distribution of Linux. I’ll report in a few months whether this experiment has been a success.


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