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Keywords: Open source, Linux, migration
Title: The Practical Manager's Guide To Open Source
Author: Maria Winslow
Publisher: Open Source Migrations/lulu.com
Verdict: If you run an IT shop and are new to open source and want to learn more then this is a good place to start
This is a book that is aimed squarely at small and medium sized enterprises interested in developing an open source migration strategy. It's not a technical manual by any means, it's focused instead on arming the IT director or manager with the tools and background knowledge required to assess current needs and to show how open source software can deliver key business benefits. As such the book assumes little or no prior exposure to open source software or principles, preferring to start at the beginning with an introduction that maps out some history, clarifies basic terms and puts some context around the topic.
A set of real-world case studies follows on from the introduction and these show both the range of organisations that have adopted open source and also the extent to which they have moved away from proprietary software. In some cases it's just the servers that have gone open source (principally moving to Linux), in some cases it's the desktops too and in some cases it's applications which have moved (from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org). The message that comes from these eleven case studies is that most types of organisation can move at least some part of their IT infrastructure away from costly closed-source solutions to cheaper open source products.
It is emphasised that there is more to going open source than cost alone. One of the surprising issues that emerges from the case studies, and which the author highlights, is that open source can often mean increased support. Expensive software licences can be ditched and some of the savings be better spent of paying for services and support from open source vendors and providers.
The next part of the book provides a set of templates to help organisations identify candidates for migration. The template helps the user to identify products and costs so that any potential savings can be quantified and return on investment (ROI) calculated. In this respect the book treads similar ground to Bernard Golden's Succeeding With Open Source.
The second part of the book looks in more detail at the current open source landscape. There is a chapter each on Linux distributions, server-side applications, desktop applications and software development. Each of these chapters surveys some of the better known names in the open source world and points out strengths and weaknesses. For example the chapter on Linux distributions covers Read Hat and Fedora Core, SuSE, Debian, Mandrake etc. The coverage of these isn't necessarily to a great depth but to the reader who is new to Linux the information is useful and to the point.
The fact that the book also covers software development in addition to the more obvious applications and operating systems is a definite plus. Just about every organisation has sets of in-house applications of various sizes and complexity, and if these perform essential functions they can effectively scupper any migration plans. The book recognises that fact and offers pointers to organisations wanting to create platform-independent code.
Finally the book closes with a couple of 'where next?' chapters. These provide pointers to sources of current information and suggest that the best is yet to come for open source.
This is an easy book to read and is pitched at just about the right level. The emphasis is not on the politics of open source but on pragmatism and an eye to the obvious benefits of moving away from vendor tie-in and crippling software licences. If there's one complaint it's that the book would have benefited from a bit more proof-reading, but it's a minor complaint really.
If you run an IT shop and are new to open source and want to learn more then this is a good place to start.