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Institutional Adoption of Open Source Software


The availability of open-source software for most institutes is very crucial. The reasons taken into account for the adoption of software are cost, reliability, compatibility, and customization. Adoption of open-source software is considered a core issue in various institutes after having their infrastructure in view. The institutes have to adopt different ways to select an open-source application that will be able to fulfil their technical and managerial needs. Our research is focusing on the issues which are faced by different institutions in the adoption of an open-source application depending upon the pros and cons of OSS.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Keywords
  • Concept behind OSS Adoption
  • Key Vendors
  • History/Current State of Technology
  • Managerial Issues
  • Technology Examples
  • Future of OSS
  • Conclusions
  • References


When OSS got momentum, the buzzwords start flying quick and loose. But the real boom of open source software forces the different institutes to take into consideration the OSS depending upon its advantages. The availability of free, open-source software (OSS) is a sort of great help at the individual and the institutional or organizational level. The OSS is gaining popularity in commercial as well as governmental domains. An interesting issue in soft technology is the issue of choice between the proprietary and OSS. Institutes or different organizations are seeing the OSS as an alternative to the proprietary software. The open-source applications like Apache, Perl, and Sendmail focus on various organizations or institutions for their internet-based applications or systems. As quoted about open-source software.

Institutional Adoption of Open Source Software

For many developing countries the dream is that they can achieve fast and sustainable economic and social growth by using inexpensive and efficient open-source software to bridge the digital divide. (Joshua L Mindel, Lik Mui, Sameer Verma, 2007)

           Most institutions or organizations adopt open-source software due to certain advantages that open source applications provide. The benefits taken into consideration are a low cost of a license, more stable features, high security, user-friendliness, support cost, and facility to upgrade the existing tool according to the new requirements due to the availability of source code. So in the presence of all these advantages, we can conclude that open source software is free to use, copy, distribute, and modify. In the adoption of OSS institutes, pay close attention to economic growth, which is the Return On Investment (ROI). The ROI must be taken into account as an OSS benefit. But there are certain disadvantages which must also be taken into account by an institute before the adoption of an OSS. These cons or disadvantages include few features provided by OSS, need training for the new features which consume time, limited support provided by the vendor, or not proper documentation.


           We come across the keywords again and again in our research area: OSS, Proprietary Software (PS), Apache Server, Linux OS, Free Software, Customization, Quality, Reliability, Security, and Management Issues. Companies are adopting open-source software due to increased attention to component-based software. OSS is available freely but lacking some features. A PS is one for which the license is not free. Proprietary Software is more robust, efficient, and full of features than on OSS. OSS comes without direct costs like license fees, while in the case of Proprietary Software, the license is not free. A PS provides mature functionality, and additional functionality is based on the terms and conditions. The comparison of OSS and PS is performed in light of technical factors like cost, quality, customizability, reliability, security, and many others. The term Free Software is an alternative of OSS which is available with limited functionality, and their source code is also available for customization needs. The strength of OSS is excellent, and we have to take the example of Apache Server, which is an OSS. Robert McCool developed the first version of the Apache Server. The open-source Apache Server is referred to as merely Apache, which plays a vital role in the growth of the World Wide Web. The free software Apache was an alternative to Sun Java System Web Server of Netscape Communications Corporation.

Another example of an OSS is Linux, which is available as a Free Software with certain features, and these features will be enough for some institute and not for the other. The other institute will have to purchase the PS or licensed version of Linux.

The Theme of OSS Adoption

      With the advent of OSS, the scenario of the IT environment has changed. Most of the institutions or organizations have shifted from proprietary in-house software to OSS. The primary concept, which is at all lying behind the adoption of OSS, is based upon the advantages and disadvantages of OSS. The institutes have to adopt an OSS after a complete analysis of their requirements. In the following scenario, we will have to discuss the different factors based on which an institute can select and open-source software. The first thing which is of great concern is the license model of OSS and proprietary software. In the adoption of an OSS new license fee is required initially. Still, the subsequent versions, i.e., upgrading of new features or updating of the existing application, would not be free. But on the other hand, the proprietary software license would not be free. Further, the additional payments would be given for updates, renewal of consent, and upgrading of new features. For academic institutes, academic permits are issued with specific terms and conditions. For adopting an OSS, the advantage of flexibility also plays a vital role. The flexibility provides the opportunity to customize the software according to the specific needs of the institute. The software can be customized by using the freely available source code. For customization, the advantage of source code also helps outsource the system for specific functions. In the case of proprietary software, the source code is not available to the users because the proprietary software provides more features than OSS. The patented software comes in the form of suits rather than in the form of modules. Most of the institutes and even individuals use OSS tools in their routine work, and they are not using commercial tools for their tasks. The concept behind OSS adoption is that if you are using a business tool for editing your data, and ultimately you produce a file. This file does not match in some other commercial machine in which you want to use it, and then there is the need for either Perl or Python scripts to fulfilling this purpose. Ultimately a consumer would migrate to certain outlets where the compatibility problem does not occur. So the people have to search the free supporting network resources where OSS is available freely to the open-source community. Some of the available online resources are forge.net, freshmeat.net, free software foundation (www.fsf.org), and many others. Institutes must analyze the OSS in terms of compatibility with other standards. Much open-source software carry the usability benefit. Standard compatibility is also a concept that is underlying in the said research. Open-source software adheres to the open standards like:

OSF (Open Software Foundation), DNS (Domain Name System), ANSI (American National Standards Association), LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol), SSL (Secure Socket Layer), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), X11 (X-Windows Protocol), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), SQL (Structured Query Language), MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions). (Huaiqing Wang, Chen Wang, 2001)

           In adopting open source applications, there is the advantage of support cost. In the case of OSS, the external support is available mostly free, but it is not so in the case of proprietary software. Typically, the only source of external support is the exclusive software vendor, and the lack of alternatives reduces user control during negotiations. OSS is not providing the user with IP indemnification, but some vendors like RedHat and Novell SuSe can give it freely. So it can serve as a sort of disadvantage in the case of OSS. In the case of proprietary software, the user can request to the vendor for IP indemnification. 

The attributes for assessing the OSS are the same as those which are taken into account in case of proprietary software. The advantage of features is also a core factor in selecting an OSS. In the case of OSS, the institute must analyze the core features of the OSS, and based on these features; we can find out the fitness of purpose that either the software is providing the required functionality or not. A significant disadvantage in the case of OSS is the quality of the software that either the software process is managed correctly or not. There may be many errors in open-source applications.

On the other hand, proprietary software is free of such fallacies, and they are more robust and managed. For adopting an application, the institute must focus on the issue of reliability. Though the OSSs provide maximum safety, when deciding to opt for an opportunity, one must review all the reliability issues of how long the product will remain available. Another disadvantage in the case of OSS is security. Security in the sense that the code of an OSS is open and anyone can change the vulnerabilities. But in the case of proprietary software, the system is not open to anyone, and it is hard to exploit the application’s potential features. For adopting an OSS, an institute must analyze the interfaces provided by OSS. The disadvantage of an OSS is that the interfaces or poorly developed, but on the other hand, the proprietary software provides better user interfaces. 

There are certain managerial concepts behind the adoption of open source technology. Here at this very time, our focus of research is not about the issues related to management, but we are just going to note down the managerial concepts for adopting OSS. Management of an organization requires benefit in the form of ROI (return on investment) that either the investment done by the company is yielding the required output. For example, if an institution or company is using Microsoft products, then the company can get benefits in both the fields, i.e., hardware and software because Microsoft is providing robust support to its users. Microsoft is providing support in the form of a comprehensive library of OSS or open-source applications. The only reason for adopting the Microsoft Windows Platform is its winning status in the industry. So if an organization follows a losing standard and that very standard is a proprietary one, then even the organization must have to shift from a losing one to an acceptable standard; either the rule is proprietary or OSS.

           There are many other concepts which are providing a clear perception in the adoption of OSS. Some of the ideas are discussed in the ongoing details. Companies are of the view that it is not essential that very costly proprietary software would be as reliable as required, so instead of developing their software application or system, companies have to prefer to adopt an open-source application for their business needs or requirements. So keeping in view, all the above-stated pros and cons institutes decide to select an open-source application.

Key Vendors

           The best criterion taken into account for consideration of an OSS is good quality, reliability, and flexibility. Now the list of OSS consists of hundreds of the software which are available either at low cost or without any charges. In this part of our research, our focus is to point out the critical vendors of OSS. Large software key vendors include IBM, Sun, Dell, HP, and Oracle. These industry giants are making significant amounts of indirect revenue from their activities with and support of OSS. This has dramatically aided mainstream adoption and acceptance of OSS.

History/Current State of Technology

           The account which is concerned with OSS is very long. From the past, it is evident that in the beginning, there was free software. But later, the concept of proprietary software originated, and it dominated as a critical business point. The proprietary software is considered a perfect model from the perspective of the business. IBM, in 1960 sold its large scale commercial computers along with free software. The software was loose because it can be shared among users, and source code was also provided publicly. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard Stallman launched the GNU project and the Free Software Foundation. He aimed to write the code of a general public free operating system. For the GNU tool, a broad open license (GPL) was designed, and the purpose of GPL was that the software would remain free, and it also helped promote free software more and more. So this is the basic history of OSS. The late 1990s are the times that are considered as exciting for OSS. The OSS systems were gaining acceptance among the general public, and in 1998 the free availability of Netscape Communicator introduced a boom in the software industry. Now the OSS in present times has also got an industrial status.

Managerial Issues

           Different organizations or institutions have issued various reports regarding the adoption decisions of OSS. In most of the stories or research papers, researchers have given contradictory conclusions and advice. The institutions are lacking in proper planning or criteria for adopting open-source technology. For adoption of OSS planning is the major part of management, so the higher management must have to consider the issue carefully and thoughtfully. If care would not be taken, then any wrong decision can lead the organization towards the deficit. To keep the organization safe from severe financial or managerial risks, there is a need for an evaluation criterion for adopting OSS. The evaluation criterion also must specify the different issues which probe severe problems in decision-making for OSS adoption.

           There is a general trend that OSS license is free of cost, but on the other hand, some institutions argue that the low cost of OSS is an appealing factor in adopting OSS. In light of this statement, it is evident that all OSS is not free but is charging less than proprietary software. So the perceptions of freeware can sometimes be misleading in adoptions of an OSS. There is a valid reason behind this that if a software is free for the general public, then it is possible that there would be some off features in that very version. Still, if a version of the same software is providing a less cost those features which are off in the free version, this would serve better. We will have to consider the following example from Linux platform:

Several enterprise Linux distributions are available, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. These products are based on freely available Linux distributions. They include additional services for enterprise customers, such as the certification of Linux for specific hardware, access to software updates, and support services. Some organizations are satisfied with a freely available Linux distribution, whereas others prefer the enterprise version. (Kris Ven, Jan Verelst, Herwig Mannaert, 2008)

A professional OSS is evaluated by considering specific technical requirements, and these requirements are directly part and parcel of the managerial issues. When an organization is going to adopt an OSS, it is the management’s responsibility to check the availability of technical support for the proposed OSS. The support provided by the OSS vendor must be at a commercial level and also within the resources of the institute or organization. The vendor must ensure the availability of training, operation manuals, or documentation must provide help to fix errors and consultancy as and when needed.

Another jargon of OSS is the availability of source code. The supporters of OSS advocate that the availability of the source code of OSS helps in improving the overall quality of the system under operation. The organization or institution can enhance the functionality of OSS because the source code contributes to the modification. Some institutes have found this thing the institutions do not consider that source code as an advantage or disadvantage. In the selection of an OSS, managers have to compare the advantages and disadvantages of proprietary software with an OSS and OSS is considered as a black box. If both are found matching at a high degree, then the decision of adoption is taken into consideration. 

The availability of source code is taken as an advantage by some institutes or organizations. They consider the source code a position in the sense that there would not be any hidden features. If there would be the existence of bugs or errors, then the source code will help them in fixing the glitches or errors depending upon the severity level of the virus. They did don’t have to consider source code as an advantage in terms of customization. But from the availability of source code, it is evident that it provides a learning process that improves the skills.

There is also a third case related to the source code for the adoption of OSS. There are some organizations in which managers have to pay immense attention to the source code. They have to consider the source code as a white box. They have to test the applications in different scenarios for organizational needs. Their primary purpose is not to customize the request; instead, they just want to understand the system’s functionality. Most of these institutions are also concerned with the development of OSS. So in such institutions, managers have to decide the adoption of an OSS according to the features which are also required in their software. 

Keeping the source code away, and if managers are not interested in source code, they must consider the adoption of OSS in the perspective of upgradability concerning functions and operations. Managers believe the issue that the vendor of OSS should provide the additional capabilities as and when required. As the upgradability is based upon the future requirements so managers also keep this thing in mind that future versions of OSS must provide backward compatibility.

As discussed earlier, the open standard compatibility, which is also a severe management concern. So the managers choose such OSS standards that support various open standards or protocols. Management also adheres to the future versions of OSS for analyzing the very support of new open standards or protocols by the OSS.

Another trait of OSS, which is also given a high priority, is the flexibility of OSS concerning customization. The adopted OSS must provide extra functionality after customizing it according to the needs of different technical environments. The organizations have to choose the OSS generally due to the reason that mostly the OSS provides maximum optimization because the source code is publically available.

Management also considers an OSS in the light of reliability. The adopted OSS must provide a highly controlled, reliable, and manageable ability of operations. The data must be analyzed more robustly by the OSS, and its performance is evaluated based on its operational behavior in different environments. 

The above discussed managerial 1issues are related to the technical requirements of the OSS. Then some issues are purely dealing with administrative requirements for adopting OSS.

The first one, which is the most crucial management issue or requirement, is the budgetary issue. Organizations have to consider an OSS concerning OSS’sOSS’s costs that either it is available freely or at a less value than the proprietary software. We have discussed this issue already in-depth.

The management team considers the adoption of an OSS in terms of the expertise of the development team. Lack of familiarity with the experts with the adopted OSS will also pose a financial threat in the form of training of the development team why exercise is essential because ultimately, after some period, there would be a need for maintainability of the adopted software. In the long term, maintainability and manageability number of the different characteristics of an OSS system are taken into account.

OSS Technology Examples

The open-source software industry is growing at a rapid pace. Hundreds of examples of OSS are there in the real world. It is impossible to consider all of them in this article. We have to discuss different OSS in brief concerning their functionality and try to cover as much knowledge as possible. 

  • Firefox is an excellent web browser that provides several different features. And these features offer a sort of more productivity. 
  • Firebird is a relational database, and it is providing many ANSI SQL features supported by Windows, Linux, and on different platforms of UNIX. 
  • PostgreSQL is an OSS available for online indexing of data and provides relevance ranking for searching databases. Naturally, it is a search engine. PostgreSQL is supported by Windows, UNIX, Linux, OS X, and Solaris. 
  • Joomla is a powerful content management system. It is used for the development of simple websites and complex corporate applications. It is easy to install, more manageable, and more reliable. 
  • Drupal is also a content management system providing powerful features. It is used to develop personal weblogs and community-driven websites. 
  • phpMyAdmin is used for the administration of MySQL on the web. It performs many of the database administration tasks like running SQL queries or statements, adding and dropping databases, and adding, deleting, and editing tables and fields. phpMyAdmin is platform-independent. 
  • Dev-C++ provides a fully-featured IDE for C/C++ programming languages. Dev-C++ has to use the Mingw port of GCC as its compiler. It can also be used with Cygwin or any other GCC based compiler. 
  • EasyPHP is a software package that provides all the flexible features of PHP language and efficient use of databases. EasyPHP includes an Apache server, MySQL database, a functional PHP, and other easy development tools for developing websites and applications.
  • Notepad++ is free source code editor which supports several programming languages like C, C++, Java, C#, XML, HTML, PHP, JavaScript, RC resource file, make file, ASCII art file(extension .nfo, Doxygen), ini, batch, ASP, VB / VBS source, SQL, Objective-C, CSS, Pascal, Perl , Python, and Lua files.
  • SharpDevelop is a free IDE for C# and VB.Net and Boo projects. It consists of forms of designer, code completer, integrated debugger, and several different features. Microsoft Windows support it.
  • PDFCreator is a free tool that is available to create PDF files from Windows applications. It also can produce PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, or EPS files. It is supported by Microsoft Windows only.

These are some of the examples of open source applications that are available freely or at low costs. There are hundreds of open source applications that are available for different purposes. It is impossible to cover all the technological advancements in the very article. 

Future of OSS

           We have discussed several issues and factors regarding the adoption of OSS. In light of these issues or considerations, we can naturally guess the future of OSS. A free dish ever feels more delicious than a charged one. The OSS systems are providing more robustness, reliability, efficiency, free of cost, or rather availability at low cost and many other fascinating features. So in the light of these qualities or attributes, more of the organizations remain in search of such open source applications. Different institutions are busy writing or developing such OSS systems for the general public and are struggling for long-term financial plans.


           There are different selection methods for adopting an OSS. The awareness of these issues or selection practices plays a vital role in the adoption of such systems. The scenario mentioned above shows that the passage is not significant due to the different involved problems. Most of the researchers asserted this thing that there is a need for some essential criteria for the evaluation of OSS. One factor which is evident in the selection scenario that the vendors of OSS must provide complete information regarding the capabilities of OSS, e.g., the features of OSS, the dependencies involved, documentation, training, etc. Further innovation plays a vital role in the growth of the economy at the macro and micro levels. Macro-level economic growth is taken into account at the country level adoption of OSS. In contrast, the micro-level economic growth is taken into account at the organizational or institutional level. Different claims are made about the passage of OSS, but it is impossible to find out which are real and false. There is a sort of confliction among all these claims regarding the adoption of OSS. Simply we can conclude that decision-makers consider the adoption of OSS in the context of requirements that are specific for their organization.

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