The open-source alternative

Agency officials considering distributed software application architectures that integrate application servers with back-end databases might want to explore open-source solutions as a way to save money.

The capabilities of open-source software are on par with their more expensive commercial counterparts, but reduced licensing fees and lower hardware costs make them highly attractive by comparison.

In the distributed application arena, open-source software includes the PostgreSQL database, JBoss, Zope Corp.'s Zope and Lutris Technologies Inc.'s Enhydra application servers.

One of the most common misperceptions about open-source software is that support and services will not be as readily available as with commercial software. But the open-source community has found that the benefits of open-source development can be neatly linked to commercial support and service organizations so that agencies can implement open-source solutions and get the help they need.

For example, Great Bridge LLC provides commercial support and service offerings for the PostgreSQL database. "Agencies can leverage our organization to implement distributed application architectures, such as the one we recently did at [the University of California-Los Angeles], where we blended PostgreSQL with Zope," said David Mele, vice president of marketing at Great Bridge. "They will find that the time and money they save will be substantial."

Mele said that agencies will need to go through a learning curve to understand the architecture. However, once up to speed, agencies will see a rapid increase in deployment times for future application rollouts, he said.

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