Can an Entire Company Run on Open-Source Software?
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 24, 2011
Can an entire company run on open-source software? The value proposition could be enormous in terms of licensing costs, since many open source products are available for unlimited, free or nominal-cost downloads. In many cases, there are also supported “enterprise” versions that involve service contracts. For core industry-specific solutions, such as policy administration or agency management systems, open source options are not as available. But for the rest of the enterprise, there are numerous ways to deploy.
Here are some examples of open-source solutions that are capable of supporting enterprise-class operations. Bear in mind, however, that there still may be a cost in terms of the technical expertise required to set up and maintain these systems. And, one of the most compelling value propositions about open-source software is that end-users can modify code to meet their needs. Again, this takes some technical know-how, and in surveys I have conducted, few companies actually take advantage of this aspect of open source.
For the front office, LibreOffice and Oracle OpenOffice both offer robust arrays of productivity tools, including word processing programs, spreadsheets and slide presentations. And these are all compatible with Microsoft Office files.
For email, there is an open-source browser – Mozilla Thunderbird, which has many of the same features as Microsoft Exchange, and, lately has also been converging with Firefox, another popular Mozilla project.
For databases, there's MySQL, PostgreSQL and Ingres – all open-source with dual-licensing arrangements. You can download the databases at no cost, or subscribe to supported versions. All three are robust relational database management systems, capable of much of the heavy lifting seen with commercial RDBMSes.
For decision support, InfiniteGraph from Objectivity offers multiple features and enhanced capabilities for customers mining relationships and connections in big data. There is a free, downloadable version as well as a pay-as-you-go supported version.
For customer relationship management, applications such as SugarCRM and Hipergate offer a range of functions, including sales automation, customer service, intranet, email marketing, content management and more. SugarCRM – built on open-source software – offers both on-site and Software-as-a-Service solutions. The community edition is available for free download, and the online version is accessible for a monthly per-user fee.
For enterprise search and text mining – critical to content management, there's Apache Lucene, a high-performance, full-featured text search engine library written entirely in Java. It is a technology suitable for nearly any application that requires full-text search, especially cross-platform.
For middleware and application development needs, Red Hat JBoss is an application server supporting all the power of a Java Enterprise Edition deployment. Developer and community editions are available for nominal fees.
The above applications are just a few of the multitude of open-source efforts that are available to enterprise users.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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