I recently attended Interop 2009, in which one CIO provided his views on open source software. Being a strong advocate of open source software, I found these views quite interesting and useful.
Firstly, the speaker classified the open source software into two categories: popular open source software and not-so-popular open source software. The popular open source software included Apache web server, mySQL database, Linux etc. As per the speaker, there are no issues with the popular open source software; rather they should be used as they provide low-cost alternatives to proprietary software plus they provide simpler licensing as compared to that of proprietary software products. On the other hand, he noted two problems with not-so-popular open source software. Firstly there is inadequate number of people that can be hired to customize/configure and secondly, one can't be sure about the security since not many people would have evaluated the not-so-popular software.
I tend to agree with him. I see a laundry list of open source software alternatives for a given product category but always recommend the ones which have got the maximum community involvement. Now how one can measure the community involvement? I typically go by the sourceforge.net ratings and/or reviews in the blogs and press. Though this method is quite imprecise, I guess one can easily build a quick list of recommended (read: popular) open source software for each product category. Let me make an attempt in my next blog!