Open Source Unchecked

As open-source use runs rampant, IT must get a grip on governance and figure out if it's really saving money.

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In 2006, a branch of the U.S. Armed Services wanted to know just how prevalent open-source software had become in its IT ranks.

The IT staffers knew that Linux and a few other open-source infrastructure apps were being used in "a couple of divisions," but they wanted to get a full understanding of that usage and then estimate the ROI to determine whether open source should be rolled out to other divisions. Consultants from Olliance Group took a look at the service's operations and after three days came back with some shocking news: The military branch was already using Linux and other open-source applications in 75% of its divisions, and in half of those, open-source use had already reached mission-critical status.

Though the open-source train had left the station without IT management onboard, the consulting firm was able to determine that the various divisions using open source were seeing an ROI of 300% to 700%. But the military branch still had no governance plan over the use of open-source technology. Needless to say, "they have one now," says Andrew Aitken, a senior vice president at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Olliance, which was acquired by Black Duck Software in 2010.

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