Free As In Puppy

Riffing on "free as in speech, not free as in beer," critics often quip that Open Source is "free, as in puppy."

Riffing on “free as in speech, not free as in beer,” critics often quip that Open Source is “free, as in puppy.”

Yeah, they say, Open Source has floppy ears, a wagging tail, and a price that can’t be beat, but beware, they warn, the costs of adopting and keeping it — expenses such as training, support, and maintenance — can’t be overlooked.

Sure, Open Source isn’t the ideal solution for every business, but then again, what is? No technology is one-size-fits-all, and Windows and Unix are puppies too, albeit of a different breed.

However, the assumption that businesses choose Open Source based largely on price is a fallacy. I don’t think CIOs or CTOs are that shortsighted or that devout, nor do I think that price — or the lack thereof — is the sole, or even primary, advantage of Open Source.

So, why Open Source? There are lots of small reasons (many of which fill these pages each month), but the ultimate, all-encompassing rationale is choice. More than any other software — indeed, perhaps uniquely so — Open Source lets you choose how to run your business.

Let’s start with Linux. No other operating system runs on as many hardware platforms as Linux. Period. Running Linux on x86 now? Need quad-Opteron performance tomorrow? Want to scale to a mainframe or supercomputer the day after that? No problem. Linux works on all of those systems. (And vendor participation is optional.)

What’s that? Can’t run Linux or prefer to run Solaris or Windows? No problem. Most Open Source is portable. How about C/C++ (courtesy of ubiquitous gcc), Perl, PHP, or Python? Or, perhaps Java (the focus of this issue) is more your brew. Mix with Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, or PostgreSQL, and you can deploy just about any application you can think of on virtually any platform.

And, better yet, all of the code is open. Need to fix a bug or make an enhancement for your business, go right ahead. Build, buy, or do both. Innovate, adopt, adapt, or mix and match. It’s your choice.

And rightly so. It’s your business.

By the way, I don’t buy the argument that Open Source is “renovation” instead of innovation. If the last two years alone are any indication of what’s to come — years that saw the rise of Python, PHP, and Eclipse, and standards like XML, among others — Open Source and open standards are quite capable of and readily setting the pace of influential change.

Of course, promoting Open Source as “free as in choice” has its own onus: that Open Source provides as many good choices as possible. Again, though, a raft of new products (yes, Open Source produces legitimate products) are already in active development, including Geronimo, Perl 6, JBoss AOP (see page 32), grid computing standards, and more.

Innovation is no longer the purview of established vendors.

Speaking of innovation, congratulations to “Guru Guidance” columnist Rod Smith. His new book “The Definitive Guide to Samba 3″ was recently published by Apress. And congratulations to senior editor and “Do It Yourself” and “MySQL” columnist Jeremy Zawodny, whose book “High Performance MySQL” was just published by O’Reilly and Associates.

And, welcome to new columnists Nick Wells, Michael Bordash, Ethan McCallum, and Jeremy Garcia. As Linux grows, so does our staff and variety of content.


Martin Streicher is the Editor-in-Chief of Linux Magazine. You can read his weblog at

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