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FCW : January 2014
agency, the same way that Amazon and Samsung often deliver a better Android experience than Google can. Agencies are best served by part- nering with an open-source provider that focuses on support and services and also delivers a large, dedicated team of engineers with an incentive to innovate at an accelerated pace in order to keep a large and satis ed cus- tomer base. Companies that only pro- vide support, hosting and profession- al services can be disincentivized to push innovative new architecture that cuts back on hardware requirements or new features that could be used by all their customers because it could drive down revenue from hosting and professional services. Finally, when evaluating a com- pany's service, support and value- added software, look at its list of commercial customers and the scale of those customers. Although a ven- dor's government customers can be instructive for determining whether its products have been accredited to run in a secure environment, they do not speak to the innovation embraced by leading commercial entities. That innovation is relevant when the open- source stack will provide user-facing services, such as Web content man- agement, mobile apps, digital publica- tions and portals. 3. The platform's commitment to open standards Agencies might assume that the act of moving to an open-source stack elimi- nates the possibility of vendor lock-in. In reality, open source can still result in vendor lock-in if an agency selects a solution that does not adequately take advantage of open standards. By selecting an open-source stack that embraces open standards as core components of its architecture (not just as an interface layer) and uses those open standards in its develop- ment process, agencies can avoid lock-in when they decide to migrate to another stack in the future. Many leading open-source entities embrace that model, which is why top-tier open-source communities like Apache have projects broken down by functional areas that inte- grate using agreed-upon standards. The best-executed stacks leverage dozens of open-source projects and integrate those components based on open standards, thereby reducing the likelihood of vendor lock-in while simplifying con guration, integration, installation and support. 4. Mobile capabilities and the future compatibility of the stack Evaluating the mobile capabilities of any stack provides a window into how future-proof it is. Most platforms that lack leadership in the mobile space state that they have mobile covered because they support responsive design. Although responsive design is an important component of mobile, it does not deliver the core capabili- ties required to manage and deliver the content to an ever-evolving set of digital channels. To truly support mobile and future- proof itself, a platform must rst be able to manage the components of a digital experience, which can include text, images, documents and videos. The stack must also have the ability to create renditions of those assets automatically for phones, tablets, desktops, digital publications and whatever is next. Those management and optimiza- tion components are critical to ensur- ing that adding channels of interaction is only a small incremental decision rather than a monumental one. 5. The platform's value beyond software cost savings Although agencies are initially drawn to open source for software cost sav- ings, extracting full value from an open-source stack requires combin- ing the best software with adoption of open standards and the expertise of the open-source community. Upfront costs associated with com- mercial software are indeed higher than downloading free open-source software. But the cost of the entire IT transformation is largely based on the labor associated with imple- menting the transformation, and those costs are driven higher or lower by the implementation tools being used. In the software world, the best tools combined with the best people will deliver the best project on time and on budget. If you substitute one of those ingredients, you can end up spending more to deliver the same product. Many systems integrators have real- ized that and have embraced open source as a way of locking themselves into long-term contracts. To avoid that trap, agencies should look at a long- term (three- to ve-year) total-cost- of-ownership model that takes into account a platform's current and future needs in order to avoid lock- in with a vendor or integrator. Genuinely participating in and sus- taining an open-source effort requires dedication, knowledge, leadership and a commitment to making the projects effective today and in the future. Most successful open-source projects on the Web today are spearheaded by vendors that realize the future does not reside with proprietary software. They see the potential in innovative modern platforms that capitalize on the best of open source, avoid the pit- falls of a purely proprietary approach, and deliver rapid innovation to gain and retain large customer bases. ■ Brian Paget is technical director of content and analytics at Adobe Systems. January 2014 FCW.COM 31