Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Out of the Wilderness. Open source development, or using open source software in the enterprise, is not as straightforward as the proponents would have you believe. Nor is open source as fraught with risk, if properly understood, as its detractors would have you believe. The problem is that there seems to be no middle ground in the literature. I've found that you're either promised paradise of eternal damnation, depending on who wrote the literature. That was the case until Understanding Open Source Software Development.

This may be the perfect book about open source software because it places open source within the context of business value and does not promote it as the great panacea that characterize the message of far too many books on the subject.

What I like is that, after providing an overview of open source, its history and proponents, the authors discuss how to analyze open source software within two major frameworks: the Zachman framework (see prior entries) that was developed in 1987 and is popular today as an enterprise-wide information systems paradigm. The book also introduces a newer framework called CATWOE. I'm new to the latter, but it is solid and is independent of open source. CATWOE stands for Clients, Actors, Transformations, World View, Owners and Environment.

The remainder of the book discusses aspects of open source as they relate to the CATWOE framework, which ensures that fair and complete treatments of the business and technical issues are given. I would have liked a more in-depth discussion of the legal issues and business risks that are associated with the GPL; however, that information is in a state of flux and is probably best gotten from daily news sources.

If you want to understand open source software development, especially as it relates to business value, this book is the one I recommend. The authors also have an associated web site that supports the book.

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