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5 factors to consider when selecting an open-source vendor

PCW - Government agency adoption of open source in many ways mirrors the path followed by many in-demand technologies in the public sector. Early on, agencies evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the emerging technology -- whether it is open source, big data, cloud computing, mobility, etc. -- relative to the traditional, legacy alternative. Then, as more agencies experience the tangible benefits of the technology and demand increases, the market follows, and suddenly agencies are facing not one or two vendor options but dozens.

After several years of being used in a broad range of situations, open source finds itself at this inflection point. The most familiar open-source platforms for government agencies include Red Hat Linux (operating system), Red Hat JBoss (application platform), Oracle MySQL (database) and, of course, Apache HTTP Server, the most successful open-source platform deployed in the public sector today.

But the open-source community has expanded significantly beyond those leading platforms and technologies, and as agencies move forward with open-source projects and evaluate new solutions, there are several key factors to consider.

.... 3. The platform’s commitment to open standards

Agencies might assume that the act of moving to an open-source stack eliminates the possibility of vendor lock-in. In reality, open source can still result in vendor lock-in if an agency selects a solution that does not adequately take advantage of open standards.

By selecting an open-source stack that embraces open standards as core components of its architecture (not just as an interface layer) and uses those open standards in its development process, agencies can avoid lock-in when they decide to migrate to another stack in the future.

Many leading open-source entities embrace that model, which is why top-tier open-source communities like Apache have projects broken down by functional areas that integrate using agreed-upon standards. The best-executed stacks leverage dozens of open-source projects and integrate those components based on open standards, thereby reducing the likelihood of vendor lock-in while simplifying configuration, integration, installation and support.