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5 stars of open-source products

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Once a curiosity of computer rooms, open-source software applications are now giving commercial programs a run for their money in public-sector information technology shops.

In fact, public-sector IT managers say free licensing isn't necessarily the most attractive characteristic of the best open-source products today. Many stand out for their stable programming code and array of useful features or, conversely, their stripped-down feature sets that eliminate unnecessary bells and whistles.

The top open-source programs in the public sector mirror those favored by commercial companies, said Michael Goulde, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. Many of them fall within the ubiquitous "LAMP" product set: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, an operating system, Web server, database and scripting language, respectively.

Here is a closer look at five open-source products and why they are winning favor in government IT shops.

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