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Today's businesses run on software. And like it or not, that software is getting more complex. More moving parts, more frequent changes and more distributed developers.

As a result, understanding, managing and maintaining an accurate understanding of exactly what source code, components, services and other software parts are used to deliver your production business services and applications is more critical than ever before.

That's why, as I mentioned in my last column, software configuration management (SCM) is an important part of good IT management and governance. SCM solutions help organizations keep track of different versions of software or source code. But they can also fulfill important governance, record-keeping and auditing functions as well. As with most software infrastructure components, organizations have a range of options when it comes to SCM-they can invest in everything from enterprise-class SCM solutions such as Rational ClearCase from IBM to free open source solutions such as Subversion. In between are a wide range of SCM vendors, including Perforce, AccuRev, Microsoft and many more.

However, even organizations that have already invested in commercial SCM products have begun to consider using open source SCM solutions in addition (and sometimes as a replacement). Frequently this happens when organizations decide to use open source SCM solutions for smaller projects or projects where upgrading their licenses or adding developers to the main SCM solution isn't cost effective. While this can be a very cost effective solution, as I'll explore in this column, it isn't always.

Using open source software configuration management (SCM) is an often an easy choice in the short term that can turn into an expensive decision in the long term. While open source SCM is an undeniable a great option for certain companies and certain types of projects, it can also result in unplanned customization, extension and the inability to easy and effectively fit with a company's software development process and needs. Organizations considering open source SCM solutions to meet tactical or strategic project needs should pause and consider the implications of such solutions on their development process efficiency and effectiveness.

The important consideration when using open source tools for a development effort is to realize that if the scope of the project goes beyond the initial scope, or the project grows or changes into a significantly project (as many development efforts have been known to do) there are a number of issues that organizations should consider. I believe that organizations evaluating open source SCM tools should take the time to look beyond the relative simplicity and convenience of an open source SCM tool and make sure to consider the potential overhead and administrative requirements of such products when they become part of a larger development effort down the road.
There are a number of elements an organization should consider to understand the implications of an open source SCM decision. However, for illustrative purposes, I'll point out two issues that organization may want to consider including in their SCM evaluation process when here, regardless of whether they're choosing open source or commercial SCM solutions.


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