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Why is an Open Source Toolset a Good Choice for Prototyping

3 Jun, 2007

What is Open Source?

Open source software is software which is distributed together with the source code used to build it so that developers who use the software are free to examine how it works, review it for security issues and contribute improvements. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.

Most open source software is licensed under very permissive terms which allow you to use or distribute it free of charge in commercial projects without having to release your own work publicly. Thousands of companies worldwide support and contribute to open source software including Sun, Novell, IBM, HP and RedHat to name just a few.

Good Quality Tools, Freely Redistributable

The open source model allows developers to pick and choose the very best components for a particular task from anywhere in the world rather than being constrained to the tools supplied by a particular vendor or having to develop the required components from scratch. It is a well known fact that most of the world's websites run on Open Source software and that even companies such as Yahoo! and Google rely heavily on open source to provide their services. By choosing an open source approach the development team has access to many of the same sets of tools which power the world's most popular websites. These tools give the developer a major head-start towards producing the first prototype.

Flexibility During the Prototyping

Expectations can quickly change as the prototype develops. As a consequence the set of tools which were considered the best fit for requirements at the start of the prototyping process might not be the best tools half way through. If a team had chosen a proprietary set of tools the cost of change involved with choosing a new vendor and negotiating new licenses could be prohibitive but in an open source model, since all the tools are freely available, the team is simply able to change to other tools and software as needed without becoming encumbered in licensing issues.

Choice Going Forward

At the end of the prototyping phase all the code produced by the prototyping team, together with the open source tools used, can be given to the main project team without licensing restrictions. This means that the main team is able to re-use useful portions of the code and the tools on which they rely if they choose to do so. Since there are many companies which support open source software there would be no requirement to use the same company for the main development phase as was used for the prototype. As a result, future development is not tied in to one vendor from the start. In turn this gives the project team more flexibility to choose the most appropriate partner for later stages of the project.

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