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Ignoring open source hazardous to your company's health

Companies that ignore open source do so at their own risk, according to a new report.

Companies that choose to ignore open source software (OSS) do so at their own risk, according to a new report from IT research firm The 451 Group.

The report, which examined a group of 15 software vendors and end-user firms that are currently investing in open source, found that open source software and business strategies are a "powerful force of change" that companies can no longer afford to ignore.

While open source has the potential to bring about significant profits, the report also found a potential downside in that -- if used improperly -- open source strategies can do severe damage to software vendors' licensing schemes and to the legal definitions of intellectual property.

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"Potential adopters of open source software … must weigh the risk and burden that open source imposes, in terms of choosing the right license, effectively managing communities of open source developers, assigning liability and other considerations, against the potential benefits of exploiting this development resource," Martin Schneider, business applications software analyst with the New York-based firm, said in a statement.

Analysts also found that investors, software vendors and end-user companies face four common obstacles to the adoption of open source software, including a lack of enterprise-ready open source applications, a lack of available commercial grade support, general uncertainty and confusion over the many different license options.

The 451 Group said it's important for companies to develop an open source strategy because the lines between proprietary and open are becoming increasingly blurred.

"Both enterprises and vendors alike will increasingly run across open source code in software that is proprietary -- making it impossible to develop infrastructure tools and applications without open source elements as part of a hybrid approach," Schneider said.

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