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Hybrid environments – the realm of Open Source

It is very rare that I come across a datacenter environment that is purely one technology. By that, I mean that most infrastructures are composed of some hybrid mix of legacy (old proprietary), commercial, and open source components. Why is that?

Well, for one, most of the companies I deal with are very large companies (Fortune 500), so chances are they have been around for a while, have probably gone through at least one M&A event, and have evolved over time. I know that many new, small startup companies rely heavily on open source components, but even they have some elements of “commercial” software … even if it is only the BIOS supporting the chipsets in their workstations/servers.

But perhaps even more significantly is that businesses have unique requirements that must be met in totality, which can rarely be done by any one software vendor or “class” of software products. People want to leverage the “best-fit” products to solve their business challenges and are increasingly evaluating the plethora of opportunities prior to making their enterprise selections. As such, the (software/solution) world is becoming more of a hybrid environment.

At every layer of the computing stack, organizations have a choice of very good components to choose from. Whether it is an Oracle, SQL, or MySQL/PostgreSQL database, Alfresco, Documentum, or FileNet content management system, Windows or Linux operating system, and so forth, are all choices that companies are considering. And, there is no one solution that fits all. Furthermore, much of the old legacy stuff in place in large organizations actually works well and doesn’t make a lot of sense to “rip out”. [NB: No doubt some of that old legacy stuff is limiting from a new-feature or support perspective and does need to be “modernized”.]

The beauty of open source is that it offers so many opportunities to complement existing environments with a solution that can help reduce cost or add flexibility, usually with little to no restructuring costs. So, it comes as no surprise that Novell is choosing to “bundle” IBM’s Websphere with its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) product. This certainly represents one package that can work in certain environments. Of course, so is JBoss on top of Linux, a play obviously more “logical” to Red Hat than Novell. Although, it is ironic that IBM took an equity position in Red Hat as far back as 1999 to promote its open source software model.


Bottom line: the world is becoming more “intermixed”. That is true of population distributions, project teams, and yes, software environments. As much as any software vendor (particularly the giant ones) would love to “own” your entire environment, those days are waning. The new world is a hybrid one. Hybrid cars, hybrid species, and hybrid software. So, as you choose which components are right for your environment, look at the entire ecosystem of software solutions (commercial and open source) to meet your most demanding needs.

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