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Evaluate Weigh the pros and cons of technologies, products and projects you are considering.

Navigate data center management software selection

Software evaluation can be a lengthy process, especially with both open source and commercial options. Functionality and support can help you form a short list of possibilities.

The choice between open source and commercial data center management software isn't going away. But is there an easy way to decide which is right for your organization?

The cost argument can be quickly debunked: The upfront cost and ongoing maintenance charges for commercial software may appear large, but in the greater scheme of overall project costs and the software's lifetime, costs are generally an incredibly low percentage. This figure fluctuates depending on licensing costs and the provider. Don't get hung up on these costs; in some instances, it's more beneficial to pay.

When selecting software, the main factor to consider is its ability to complete management tasks and meet your performance goals. If the open source alternative doesn't meet your capability requirements, then it should not be on the shortlist. The same goes for commercial software.

So, why go for open source, particularly when it comes to data center management software? The benefits of open source software include integrated management, scalability, a lower entry barrier, vendor blindness and faster time-to-market. There are lots of options available, from DevOps to container and platform orchestration systems.

Commercial vendors' offerings aren't diminishing, however. Organizations can choose between products from CA Technologies, BMC Software and Electric Cloud. With these vendors' tools, you might find expanded functionality, increased processing power, better security features and vendor-provided maintenance.

Garner application support

Available support is another factor in software selection. Commercial software from the large vendors usually comes with support as part of the ongoing license and maintenance contracts.

Open source software is either do it yourself or comes with support bundles that organizations must pay for. This type of support comes from either one of the developers of the code or via one of their partners, which may be a vendor that offers a commercial alternative.

You'll also need to consider in-house support, its availability and the overall cost. The de facto standard for software in both the open source and commercial worlds is to offer lots of support. More esoteric systems may have very little support, and maintaining and keeping those skills in-house may be very difficult.

To get further background on open source systems, evaluate their software development pages. If there has not been a major release within the past year, the tool may be seeing waning support. Look at responses to function requests: do developers show continual support and interaction or can you hear the tumbleweed passing through?

Similarly, with commercial data center management software, ask the vendor what it has planned in terms of new functionalities and version releases.

Optimize business operations

Be aware that both commercial and open source software can fail. The vendor can go out of business or the community support environment can decline and die.

With open source, look for vibrant support from both the developer community and vendors: This maximizes the probability of the software maintaining support. When evaluating commercial software, ask about end-of-life plans along with full-support periods.

Ultimately, the argument is not about open source versus commercial data center management software; it is about what fits your purpose. Data center systems management is not something the end user sees, but the effect of good or bad software makes the difference between a functional infrastructure and one with performance issues. Make your choice by doing your due diligence and decide what is best for the organization over the long term.

This was last published in October 2018

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