What is Free/Libre & Open Source Software?

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This site section is designed to provide a general understanding of the Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) business model and comprises the most frequently asked questions concerning this notion.

  1. What is Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS)?
  2. What kind of licensing is available for FLOSS?
  3. What are examples of Free/Libre and Open Source Software?
  4. How can businesses benefit from adopting and deploying Free/Libre and Open Source?
  5. Can I get a committed support service when adopting solutions based on Free/Libre and Open Source?
  6. Who else currently utilizes Free/Libre and Open Source for mission-critical applications?
  7. Doesn’t closed source enhance software security?
  8. What global enterprises are deploying solutions based on Free/Libre and Open Source in the business world?
  9. Does Free/Libre and Open Source help reduce risks for businesses?

1. What is Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS)?

Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) generally refers to a software development and deployment model that relies on the free availability, modification and redistribution of the software source code.The Free Software Definition is maintained by FreeSoftware Foundation (FSF) and mandates four fundamental freedoms, including freedom to run, study, redistribute, and improve software. The Open Source Definition, maintained by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), puts forth a similar set of requirements, with which a piece of software must conform to be considered Open Source.

2. What kind of licensing is available for FLOSS?

Basically, there are several types of licensing models available, the most notable being the GNU GPL (General Public License). There are, however, a great number of other FLOSS licenses, such as the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), IBM Public License, BSD license, Apache license and many others. For a complete list of approved FLOSS licenses, please refer to the FSF and OSI web sites.

3. What are examples of Free/Libre and Open Source Software ?

The examples of the probably best-known Free/Libre and Open Source projects include:

Operating systems: GNU/Linux, the most successful and widely adopted OS, comes in many flavors, including RedHat, SuSe, Debian, Mandrake distributions and many more.

FreeBSD, OpenBSD and NetBSD are other examples of open-source operating systems based on the Berkeley Systems Distribution of Unix, developed at the University of California, Berkeley.

Software: Apache, which runs currently on more than a half of the world’s web servers.

Samba, a robust and secure software suite delivering printer and file sharing services for heterogeneous network storages.

Mozillla, a popular open-source browser that comes with many features, while providing cross-platform consistency and high stability.

OpenOffice.org, a popular feature-rich office suite that runs on all major platforms and provides access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format.

Databases: MySQL, the world's most popular open-source database, recognized for its speed and reliability.

PostgreSQL, SAP DB, and InterBase enterprise-class ACID-compliant database management systems are also available under FLOSS licenses.

4. How can businesses benefit from adopting and deploying Free/Libre and Open Source?

Generally, small and mid-size businesses can realize benefits from adopting FLOSS-based solutions in several critical areas, including both immediate savings through lower infrastructure, licensing costs and, generally, a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and advantages resulting from improved security, reliability and scalability.

Besides, utilizing open standards when running a business eliminates the danger of 'data lock-ins', when your legacy data appears “locked” in a specific proprietary format, making migration a lot more difficult should you opt to stop relying on a particular software vendor.

5. Can I get a committed support service when adopting solutions based on Free/Libre and Open Source?

The ways to obtain professional support when going with Free/Libre and Open Source are many. There are a great number of entities, including global ones like RedHat, SuSe and local open-source professionals offering support, installation and deployment services at highly competitive prices. Besides, all the software projects DNT Plus runs are secured by the provided contractual guarantees, which means that within a one-year error-free code warranty period any possible defects will be fixed gratis, while custom training and deployment are always available on request.

In addition, the guaranteed source code availability ensures that, should you run into problems, any professional you choose can handle a software issue more efficiently and in much faster time-frames.

6. Who else currently utilizes Free/Libre and Open Source for mission-critical applications?

Open-source software has already proven to be highly robust and secure on the server side – the GNU/Linux and FreeBSD operating systems and the Apache web server package are time-tested examples, deployed on a great number of Internet servers – where the possible business risks resulting from downtime are very high.

As a concrete example, one can consider the Yahoo! portal and HotMail running FreeBSD. The co-founder of Yahoo! explains why here.

In addition, an ever-increasing number of businesses and public entities are embracing solutions based on Free/Libre and Open Source worldwide. Free/Libre and Open Source is also currently gaining ground among small and mid-size businesses that opt to stop relying on a single software vendor to lower the TCO costs and avoid possible data lock-ins.

7. Doesn’t closed source enhance software security?

Basically, this assumption is false. The IT history proves that bugs and exploits will be found, no matter whether the software is open or closed source. In the case of Free/Libre and Open Source, however, since the source code is constantly scrutinized by many, security breaches are more likely to be discovered by the ‘good guys’, which makes it easy to supply patches. In the closed source computing, security faults are generally found by extremely motivated security-breakers and practice shows that patches tend to come more slowly from software vendors.

8. What global enterprises are deploying solutions based on Free/Libre and Open Source in the business world?

A number of IT-giants are currently widely deploying Free/Libre and Open Source. Some most prominent examples include:
IBM, who once chose to ship the Apache web package with its WebSphere and since then has consistently sustained Free/Libre and Open Source.

Apple, who has recently released its MacOS X operating system by collaborating with the Darwin project;

Hewlett-Packard utilizes Free/Libre and Open Source for its high-end servers;

AOL Time Warner supports the development of the Mozillla effort;

Sun supports the development of the OpenOffice.org application suite;

Sharp deploys GNU/Linux for use with its powerful PDA and handhelds;

Red Hat and SuSe are major successful companies that market GNU/Linux, while providing custom training, certification and other support services;

9. Does Free/Libre and Open Source help reduce risks for businesses?

Yes. The Free/Libre and Open Source business model does so by utilizing open standards and allowing free source code availability and modification without forfeiture of intellectual property protections, which helps reduce the following business risks: the risk of data lock-ins resulting from extensive use of proprietary file formats;

the risks of possibly poor interoperability and hampered bug-fixing;

the risks of vendor lock-ins, which make a company totally dependant on the terms imposed by a particular software house;

the risks of excessive TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), resulting from high licensing costs of proprietary software and the unnecessary hardware upgrades;

the risks of possible IPRs infringements, as is the case with Shared Source Initiative.

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