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Open source software client concerns

These open source software FAQs may come in handy when helping customers select and integrate open source technologies. We present the top 10 questions about open source software posed by members of our sister site

Why should I choose to develop or support an open source application instead of an easy, immediate commercial product?

There is no "should" about it; the choice is yours. Choose the product that best suits the criteria you and your client have decided it must meet. It may also be possible to take existing open source software and add value using your own programming and admin skills to create an application that would cost far less than a proprietary product.

Find more information on open source applications.

How can I evaluate whether or not a given open source solution aligns with enterprise system requirements?
First, build a decision matrix listing the qualities or features desired, or the problems the software must solve. For each one of these qualities, add a value to express how important each item relative to the others. The resulting numbers can help guide the decision and make you think hard about what you value and how much you value it, in addition to the implications of supporting it.

Find out what additional benefits can come from enterprise application integration. A company I support moved engineering to Linux years ago but management still needs Windows. Our financial app also requires IE and Windows. Can you suggest equivalent, open source apps?
The obvious open source alternative to Microsoft Office is OpenOffice. It is very workable for everyday users. However, documents (especially Excel) that make use of advanced macros sometimes don't work very well in OpenOffice, although it is much improved in the 2.0 version. You could look at that.

For apps that are written to work only with IE, it's very tough to run them under Firefox or other open source browsers. You can test with Firefox or the others to see if there's compatibility.

Find everything you need to know about Linux channel issues. How can I configure my open source server firewall to block all IPs, except mine?
It is possible to use access control lists or rules on your networking devices to block incoming SSH access from all IP addresses except your own. For example, adding an iptables rule that restricts incoming SSH access to a single IP or subnet. An important consideration here, though, is that if your IP address changes or you need to access the host from an address or network not specified in that rule, you will not be able to connect. Make sure that you update the rule/ACL when IP addresses change and make sure you include all of the IP addresses from which you may require access.

Protecting client's servers is an important aspect of offering good support. Take a look at all the latest server security information. What are some automated open source tools that can scan for flaws in software?
I am not aware of any open source tools that perform this function. All of the tools I have seen are commercial: Fortify, Coverity and Agitar. I think is also important to note that scanning cannot totally replace manual audits. Tools can remove some of the labor involved but cannot replace human intuition in detecting and extrapolating how a bug or flaw might be exploited and/or fixed.

Finding the right systems management tool can make the life of a VAR much easier. Take a look at our management tools section.

How do I fight management's perception that MySQL is not suitable for 'the real world' because it is free?
Big companies like Google use MySQL successfully. If management is afraid they'll be left hanging when something breaks, suggest a subscription to MySQL Network, or even consider the new MySQL Enterprise package. Enterprise offers the same software your developers already know, but adds the support and services a manager needs to be confident in a system.

Get the latest tips and technical advice on MySQL. How do you configure clusters in MySQL? Does it require additional software?
MySQL Cluster is free, just like the rest of the MySQL software. Configuration can be daunting, especially for a mission-critical situation. If the business will depend on Cluster, I recommend purchasing a MySQL Network subscription, which entitles you to official support. If you are just curious and want to set up Cluster for your own education, everything you need to know can be found in the documentation.

Get the latest channel tips and technical advice on MySQL. If I have an app running on Unix that uses platform-specific features. What is the best way to preserve those functions when I port it to Linux?
It is generally considered good programming practice not to use platform-specific features when writing code in order to limit the amount of problems when porting to different architectures. To further answer your question, I would need to know more specifics about the application that uses these platform-specific features. My guess is, that you won't be able to preserve much.

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With Microsoft adding ActiveSync to Exchange 2007, what affect will this have on the overall market for wireless synchronization products?
Exchange ActiveSync provides synchronization of both email and PIM data like calendaring, contacts and tasks, from an Exchange mailbox to a mobile device. Notes are not supported. This feature is installed by default for the Client Access server role on Microsoft Exchange 2007 server. This will commoditize wireless synchronization, a feature that was previously considered premium. Bundling wireless sync in Exchange 2007 and combining with OMADS, will expand the number of users/employees who benefit from wireless synchronization of email, calendar and contacts.

Get more comparitive information on channel integration issues. We've been running our sales, administrative, HR and database (MySQL) applications on Red Hat Linux 9 on 9 Pentium 3 servers (all in one location), and it has worked very well for about 100 users. I've read a lot about the new breed of more powerful servers but I'm a bit worried that buying stronger servers will cause problems with power, configuration and management. I also haven't done a server consolidation project before. Can you make some general recommendations about how to go about choosing the right servers, consolidating my server resources, and moving apps to them?
Depending on the load on your current servers, one or two Altus 1U or 2U servers might be able to handle the load. You might also want to consider a blade platform like BladeRunner, which would provide similar CPU performance but with lower power usage per system. You also gain some integrated management features, redundant power and networking options with BladeRunner.

When considering what services to consolidate, recognize that to maintain performance you will need as much memory in the new server as the *sum* of the servers it replaces. If your database has grown over time, you may also want to "upgrade" the amount of memory provided to that service.

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