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Choosing Whether To Go Open Source

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Open source has always been a favorite among scientists and universities where budgets are limited but where there is plenty of expertise around to fiddle with the code and customize it for a specific project or department. It never behaved like the costlier, commercially available products from big-name vendors, and it required lots of patience for dealing with quirks and knowledge of some arcane coding tricks.

That explains why using open source for production in mission-critical environments, particularly where security is essential, has been relatively rare. But that's beginning to change. Since the Internet's widespread adoption, open source has become a global effort, and over the past several years that collaboration has yielded significant advancements. Applications are more readily available, security has been beefed up and the underlying Linux operating system has been worked on extensively.

But is it really ready for prime time in a place like the U.S. government?

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