Open Source and the Data Center: How Systems Are Adapting

A Dilbert strip once featured the Pointy-Haired Boss declaring to Dilbert that, from now on, Dilbert was to use open source for everything, as it was free. Dilbert, alarmed, then turned to Alice for help, and the duo returned to the boss with a demand for him to hand over the trade publication, so that no one had to get hurt. Open source looks great on the surface—it's free!—but it doesn't come without issues of its own to consider, particularly in the data center.

What Can Open Source Do for Data Centers?

Open source has already brought quite a bit of value to the end user in businesses of all sizes.

Value. From word processor replacements like OpenOffice to full-scale systems, open source tools can be a match for commercially-developed software in both quality and overall usefulness. Throw in the cost advantages of free software and the end result speaks for itself.

Innovation. Open source developers have been routinely known for developing new tools that commercial developers would have ignored as risky ventures. Such tools also benefit from collaborative development, with an accompanying new perspective.

Freedom. With open source, there's no longer a concern about vendor lock-in, ensuring that the systems used today will continue to be valuable down the line.

What Risks Does Open Source Pose for Data Centers?

Even with all these worthwhile points, there are still risks to consider in the data center.

Lack of updates. A system that's effectively created by committee can fall prey to a phenomenon where no one addresses needed updates. It's easy to believe that “someone else” will handle any problems when no one is specifically responsible.

Lack of vetting. While it's easy enough to trust a Microsoft or IBM software release, open source doesn't come with name recognition built in. That can make finding the right open source difficult.

Potential legal problems. Open source software can be updated by most anyone, and as such, the potential for code being added that infringes on others' intellectual property rights is present. A lack of warranty in open source also leaves users exposed to potential legal action.

How Do I Best Put Open Source to Work in the Data Center?

The best way to start with open source, or any other improvement in the data center, is to get in touch with us at EmconIT. We've got 25 years of experience in data center operations and offer a wide variety of services, ranging from hardware maintenance to full data center relocation. Drop us a line, and we can show you how open source solutions fit into your operation, or even what other solutions could be better choices in the long run.