Top five mistakes to avoid with open source migrations

There are pitfalls for those considering a move to open source software, delegates at a recent Linux conference were told. Todd R Weiss reports

When considering a migration to open source software, it’s good to keep in mind the mistakes of those who have tried before and so avoid falling into the same traps they did.

That’s the advice of Andy Astor, chief executive of EnterpriseDB, who gave a presentation on “the top five mistakes to avoid in migrating to open source” at the LinuxWorld conference held in Boston earlier this month.

One of the most important things to remember, he told the audience, is that using open source software shouldn’t be a goal if you don’t have a clear idea about the rationale behind such a move. Doing it just to follow a fad is not a great idea, he says.

Rather, it’s important to undertake a thorough internal analysis and to focus on avoiding the following mistakes:

• Failing to minimise the costs and risks associated with a migration. “If you’re not working hard to minimise the costs and risks, chances are you are going to be part of one of the attempts that fail,” Astor says. “Understand your business case and, if you don’t know it, I would encourage you to walk away.” By proactively and explicitly reviewing the risks — and the best practices available to minimise them — migration decisions will be easier, more focused and more likely to work, he says.

• Bringing in open source for open source’s sake or because it may help your career. “Open source is just a technology solution to a business problem,” Astor says. “Open source is not a religion. Open source is going to just be a part of the [overall technology] fabric in general. Why are you doing your open source migration is the right question. To reduce costs, to enhance security, to increase business flexibility — these are all good reasons. What matters is if you are effectively solving a business problem and I would encourage you to continue to ask that question.”

• Fearing the unknown, including licensing concerns. “Open source licences are not that complicated, just unfamiliar,” Astor says. “Don’t sweat it, read it. It’s not that hard.”

• Ignoring the open-source community. “The community is the direct force behind open source software,” he says. “Fundamentally, you ignore the community at your own peril. It’s where you get active help and where you might get your next workers. If you don’t have yourself or your vendor deeply involved in the thing that is driving this forward, then you’re sort of standing there all by yourself. You can get a whole lot from the community.”

• Thinking that, because it’s open source, you don’t need support. “A commercial organisation needs commercial support”, especially when it’s running enterprise applications that matter to the business, Astor says. “You need to know that there’s someone on the planet to fix things that go wrong.”

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