Report from the Software Developers Forum – OSS

February 13, 2009

We sent one of our developers, David, to represent Vision Point Systems at Tuesday’s Software Developer Forum in Blacksburg hosted by Mailtrust. Here’s what he had to report:

The forum started off with a discussion of using OSS in businesses as a way to reduce costs. Mailtrust uses open source code for the base of their products. Additionally, OSS was also mentioned in support roles like word processing (OpenOffice) and ticket tracking (Trac). The main point being that companies can leverage these products as a reduced cost and can modify them as needed, sometimes contributing changes back to the project. Then the discussion moved to the topic of making money on OSS. The main way discussed was selling support for the product. Both Red Hat and MySQL were mentioned as examples of this. Another way was the accepting of donations, however it was pointed out that a large userbase works best. The rest of the discussion did not focus on business talk, but on Open Source as a whole.  Topics ranged from the awareness of open source in the mainstream to how  the government should/could use it. The most interesting bit of this was the discussion of open standards in regards to medical records. If there was a standard format for how medical records should be, then each state could use or reuse the software that they wanted. The government bit was the most intriguing section of the night because there is, I believe, a great potential for change and savings on a state and federal level. Caution is warranted because just because something is OSS does not mean it is of high quality. Sometimes and in some applications, closed source programs just work better.”

That’s a pretty good summary of OSS as a whole and corresponds with the last roundtable discussion I attended on the topic at an NJTC event last spring. I’m going to try to reach out to a contact at EnterpriseDB that I had met there at that event to try and set up a discussion in this forum on MySQL vs PostgreSQL.

For my MBA cohorts, keep this in mind when we cover this topic in IT Management class later in the semester. I’m interested to see how consistent the academic view is with the real world usage.

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