"With tight budgets, aggressive schedules, and a pressing need to adapt quickly to meet changing business conditions, organizations throughout the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) see the appeal of the open source model.
Open source software (OSS) includes operating systems, applications, and programs in which the source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute that code without paying royalties or fees. Open source “products” typically evolve through community cooperation among individual programmers as well as very large companies. An open source license permits anybody in the community to study, change and distribute the software for free and for any purpose.
At first glance it might seem that DoD organizations can avoid buying commercial software products simply by starting with open source software and developing their own applications. As we will see, total cost of ownership (TCO) for open source software often exceeds that of commercial software. While minimizing capital expenses by acquiring “free” open source software is appealing, the up-front cost of any software endeavor represents only a small fraction of the total outlay over the lifecycle of ownership and usage. And while cost effectiveness is important, it must be carefully weighed against mission-effectiveness.
This paper seeks to answer two questions:
1. What are the tangible and intangible costs that the government should bear under an open source licensing model?
2. What are the tradeoffs and risks associated with open source licensing models in relation to commercially available software?"