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The Practical Manager's Guide to Open Source Paperback – August 26, 2004
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About the Author
Maria Winslow is an open source business analyst based in Chapel Hill, NC. She is a contributing editor of LinuxWorld Magazine.
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The case studies are superb - much better than "analyst reports", because they contain the words, thoughts and motivations of people who've actually put open source software into production in the real world, and it includes their savings according to their own measurements and experience.
Although I've seen a few of these cases before, having them all together in one book with the information on how one goes about seeing what kind of savings one might expect, is quite illuminating.
The concentration on computing total cost of ownership and how to get a reasonable idea if and when a particular change is going to pay for itself is really outstanding.
Given that the topic of the book is open source, it is unsurprising that the author has found it to work well in many of the cases she's examined.
The book contains almost no technical jargon. It is a high-level overview of the programs available, what each one does, advantages and disadvantages, and where to find additional information. Ms. Winslow includes information on all the most popular business applications and distributions of Linux. She even includes information on determining when you should and should not make the switch and when a hybrid network is the most appropriate as well as how to get users and management to buy into the change. The Practical Manager's Guide to Open Source is a great non-technical overview of open source business programs and the perfect place to start for management considering Linux in their network.
Maria Winslow contributes to the nuts-and-bolts side of the debate with her new book, The Practical Manager's Guide to Open Source. Although it is obvious that Winslow tends to have a personal slant in favor of open source software, sometimes called free software, her slant is based on numbers, not religion.
Winslow starts out with a primer for the business manager who is new to open source. She gives you a short history of how we have gotten here, what's available on the market in terms of functionally solid open source software, and where it might fit in your business.
Winslow next gives examples of real-life settings in which companies or governmental agencies moved to open source, why they moved, and the ups and downs of the migrations. She gives it to you straight, telling the hardships as well as the benefits of those users' migrations. Her unvarnished stories will give you a candid opinion from those who have made the transition, so that you will have a realistic picture of what challenges you might find by moving, as well as the potential upside of moving.
Winslow's best score with this book is the creation of live spreadsheets for the reader to download from her site to use in making actual calculations about the potential return on investment (ROI) in YOUR unique business's IT (information technology) environment. Her spreadsheets will first help you prepare a feasibility report to determine, whether or not you will be wasting your time considering such a move in the first place; and her second spreadsheet gives you a framework for calculating a real-world analysis of what your realistic ROI might be based on your own unique circumstances.
The remainder of the book is dedicated to familiarizing you with places that you can go for further information on getting support; what companies are offering reliable open source solutions; and what will likely happen with the future of open source offerings.
Overall, it is Winslow's opinion that a practical manager will not rip-and-replace wholesale, absent some compelling financial reason for doing so. Rather, Winslow recommends breaking the reader's needs down in terms of time and functionality to time the migration, if at all, so as to maximize both the benefits of open source software, in places where it gives superior performance, as well as cost savings, in places where an open source migration is cheaper than the status quo.
She concludes with a brief review of the controversey between Microsoft and companies such as IBM, Novell, Mandrakesoft, Linspire, etc., as to whether independent studies tend to show that Linux is, in fact, less expensive that Microsoft's proprietary solutions. Microsoft has launched an ad campaign called "Get the Facts" in which it contends that Microsoft solutions are cheaper than the open source alternatives.
Winslow, ever the pragmatist, gives you a brief framework to assist you in evaluating the arguments pro and con on that debate, and offers her own opinion as to where the chips seem to be falling.
This book is not that useful for technical IT managers who are looking for technical solutions to technical problems. However, this book is highly recommended for business managers who would like a pragmatic framework to use in quantifying wether or not to move to open source software, and which aspects of their environment are candidates for migration.
* Too simplified. Although this book makes for an 'easy read', she glosses over the details of important, and often complex, topics, such as the intricacies of the GPL license and how it differs from BSD-style licenses. I implore all readers interested in open source to read at _least_ one more significant publication on this topic.
* Too much opinion. I noticed that Ms. Winslow tended to interject her opinion with the facts such that the two became blurred for this reader.
* Older references. Too many of her critical sources were from 2001 or 2002. Given the subject, this is not useful to the practical manager who wants to stay current. I realize she published in 2004, but "The Success of Open Source" by Steven Weber was also published in 2004 and it is overflowing with useful references.
* Too Linux-centric. The title belies a broad topic of open source to be covered. Only Linux was her open source focus and success story. Perhaps the title should be "The Practical Manager's Guide To Linux Open Source".
* Poor editing. Although a minor distraction, I lost track of the number of typos.
I did appreciate the case studies, however.
Thanks for your time - .