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Mixed source for the best of both worlds


One could be forgiven for believing that there are only two ways to deploy IT infrastructures: straight out-of-the-box with repressive pricing and licensing terms from proprietary vendors, or build-it-yourself, for free, with help from the open source community. However, a strong new trend is emerging amongst buyers of software technology, writes Rheinhardt Esau, business unit sales specialist at Novell.

Many customers are no longer making a definite choice between open source and proprietary software and services. Instead they are realising the benefits of integrating the best products from open source and proprietary vendors to solve their technology problems. These customers are deliberately blending technology from each group to create layers of software infrastructure in a new paradigm of 'mixed source'.
A mixed source approach enables customers to keep costs low with open source software while also minimising threats, protecting key corporate data, reducing network administration costs and complying with regulations with the help of steadfast proprietary solutions.
As a result, they are turning to both the open source community and their legacy vendors and seeking help in creating mixed source infrastructure – end-to-end software solutions that combine the best of both worlds. This scenario presents a unique opportunity for vendors who recognise the value of collaboration between the two schools.
Open source software is fast catching up with proprietary offerings in operating systems, application servers, databases and more. But rather than sweep aside every proprietary vendor, the advance of open source is actually creating new opportunities for proprietary software vendors as well as the open source community.
Gaps in the capabilities of open source can be addressed either by further open source development or by proprietary solutions. Add-ons from proprietary or open vendors to software such as Linux, Jboss and MySQL can allow customers to build further functionality into their open source software – often to replicate the best features of their previous proprietary systems – but without having to revert to the cost and inflexibility of those systems.
For example, when adding additional security functionality to their open systems, many customers are actually reverting to a mixed Linux/proprietary solution. Also, while some products, like Apache, are sufficiently well-developed as to have become virtually commoditised, others do not yet offer precisely the functionality customers would like, and that is where the mixed source approach assists.
Many vendors are creating proprietary add-on tools that enhance software without the requirement for excessive resources to manage the technology itself. Of course, for customers to identify and integrate those add-ons they need support from vendors and service providers who understand how to connected open source and proprietary technologies and who can offer service and support for all platforms.
The future of software is both open and proprietary and the most successful software vendors will be those that embrace and support both camps. Customers care more about values such as cost, speed, innovation and open standards, irrespective of the supplier. Vendors well-connected with the open source community yet also able to provide and support proprietary solutions will prevail.