Does OSS Offer Maintenance and Support?
OSS may also contain a maintenance and support element that is available for a cost. MySQL offers an enterprise package that includes the software, support, and additional monitoring tools. Depending upon the needs of the program, one may consider a support package in which the cost would need to be added into the life cycle cost of the system.
Overall Evaluation of OSS
If one chooses to modify the source code and keep his own version, OSS can easily morph into government off-the shelf software, losing most of the value of leveraging from the OSS community. At that point, the program becomes responsible for having developers available for maintenance and support. One may also find himself maintaining a great deal more features than what is required for the program. Most OSS projects make the executable (installer) available for download. If one were to only download the executable, he will be left with what is essentially a proprietary product but with the added benefit of having access to the source code. Modifying the source code may be a researcher’s best option as long as he is prepared for the possible future consequences.
The items identified in this article are only a few of the considerations for evaluating OSS for use within a program. Other factors that may need consideration are security, prerequisites, reliability, and performance. The Defense Acquisition University Best Practices Clearinghouse (<https://bpch.dau.mil>) contains a forum to enable the sharing of best practices when evaluating OSS throughout DoD.
Remember, the open source community is available because projects make their source code available. Making someone’s code available may allow for external reviews and could improve code quality. The Defense Information Systems Agency has developed an online open source repository at <www.forge.mil> called SoftwareForge. SoftwareForge hosts open source and community software projects within the DoD. If public availability it not an option, SoftwareForge may be a more secure alternative.