Free and open source software (F/OSS) is emerging as a promising alternative to proprietary software. The interest in F/OSS solutions is growing as firms realize that it could help reduce IT expenditures. Unfortunately, despite the heightened interest, F/OSS solutions remain misunderstood, and a number of myths regarding this approach still prevail. F/OSS has been described as simply software, or even software specific for the Linux operating system, with hardly any reliable support available. Some have considered it a silver bullet solution that will always create superior quality software at lower or no cost (Wheatley, 2004). The purpose of this article is to demystify these misconceptions surrounding F/OSS and provide an understanding of its basic concepts. Then, based on these concepts, we try to illustrate how companies can benefit from F/OSS. Our hope is that this article would assist interested observers to better understand F/OSS and help managers make more informed decisions regarding F/OSS solutions.
F/Oss Ipo Model
The F/OSS development system can be conceptualized as an input-process-output (IPO) system, with the license as the boundary, the community as the input provider, the F/OSS development methodologies as the process, and the software as the output (see Figure 1). So we would expect that all four components to have implications on the quality of the final product (software).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Brook’s Law: Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.
Open Source Software: Software that complies with the criteria set forth by the OSI which can be found at http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition.php
Free Software: Software is considered free software if the user has the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software (“The Free Software Definition,” n.d.).
Copyleft: The copyleft principle prevents the privatization of the whole or parts of the software that has a license that implements this principle.