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LinuxWorld: Managing mixed source software stacks

Get a Linux architect's opinion of Vista and four tips on managing a data center's mix of open and closed source software stacks in this report on Russell Pavlicek's LinuxWorld workshop.

Russell Pavlicek, senior Linux architect with Cassatt Corp., has some thoughts for IT managers who want to get open and closed source applications to play well together in the data center. Cassatt is a data center automation and virtualization management vendor based in San Jose, Calif.

The age of the closed source application stack is essentially over. The question is not if you are using open source applications, it is where."
Russell Pavlicek
Senior Linux architectCassatt Corp

During his session at the LinuxWorld Open Solutions Summit, Managing the Application Stack: Open and Closed Source Together, Pavlicek laid out a handful of his best tips and observations for IT managers working in heterogeneous data centers.

  • The new stack is open and closed – get used to it

    The new application stack is a mixture of closed and open source applications and it's going to stay that way in the future. That's resulted in fewer licensing costs and issues, and given IT managers' greater control over software development. "IT managers should plan on increasing open source components in their data centers over time. This is the reality of history; the trend is established," Pavlicek said.

  • Forget about vendor lock-in

    One of the things that happened in the era of the 100% closed source stack was that everyone got "used to" the idea of vendor lock-in, Pavlicek said. "When I would go to customers and see their planning for the data center, it was always in terms of 'these products need to keep going for us for X number of years.' It was too hard to pull out pieces and replace them," he said. The availability open source software, however, can free IT managers from lock-in.

  • Leverage the community

    In the past, IT managers were reluctant to change or modify deployed applications because they were too valuable. "With one customer of mine, they had one guy who understood the software, and they guarded what he wrote like the crown jewels of the organization. The truth was it wasn't the software, but what was in the guy's head," Pavlicek said. If you're in that boat, consider bolting your new software to an open source base, and cut your dependency on individual developers.

    And don't worry too much about having to open source your code. "A lot of people say a GPL license means they have to release the software to everyone, but that's only the case if you intend to be a commercial provider," he said. In the long run, IT managers can save money by leveraging the open source community to write "non secret" parts of their applications.

  • Unpopular open source tools are risky, but unpopular closed source tools are deadly

    A friend of Pavlicek's once said if an open source project is no longer supported, then the user is in trouble. Pavlicek responded that if the same thing happened to a closed source company, you'll be left with some executables and little else. With open source, at least the code remains. "Closed source tools rarely survive the death of the product or the company which provided it," he said. Not so with open source projects: for example, now defunct Eazel's Nautilus, a file manager built into GNOME-based Linux desktops. "Even though Eazel is gone, Nautilus goes on with regular updates and everything," he said. When going with a company like Microsoft, you are betting they are going to be around in five years. "That's a good bet with Microsoft, but smaller companies may not," Pavlicek said.

  • Microsoft Vista: The more things change, the more they stay the same

    Pavlicek said he hasn't seen a Microsoft Vista upgrade with any of his customers yet, but he could guess what early evaluations in the process would look like. There will be new hardware purchased to handle it, he said. Most applications that run on it will be completely new for Vista. Back-end servers will probably need new software to talk with the new operating system on the desktop. There will be back-end hardware upgrades. "It is a downward spiral that takes place, and it is not modular. You cannot plug in an application and have everything else exist as it once was," he said. Open source projects, on the other hand, trend toward modularity. If IT managers can think in terms of modules and not complete application stacks, then they can avoid the "upgrade whirlwind" of Vista, Pavlicek said.

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