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Benefits and Challenges of Open Source for Agile Teams

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Combining open source resources with a team's Agile best practices can quickly yield some truly amazing results .Jeff Hodson recently wrote: to sustain these successes, teams must apply an architectural-centric approach in order to realize longevity, flexibility and independence in the application. His article Supercharge Your Application Development Open Source Strategy with an Architecture-centric Approach appeared in AgileJournal earlier this month.

Leveraging open source technologies has had a significant positive impact on both the development and runtime environments of software applications. Teams using this advantage find they are better able to deliver applications with expected functionality within timeframes acceptable to interested stakeholders. When given the option to choose between open source widget v1.0 or its commercial v1.0 equivalent, early released versions of open source software tend to be better tested and market-proven than their commercial counterparts.

But, of course, there are trade-offs. Hodson's article addresses developers' concerns about the challenges posed by open source software, including:
  • Community-based support structure is different from the more familiar commercialized software environments.
  • Sporadic release cycles
  • Contribution management: the luxury of the having access to open source code can be a double-edged sword and assumes a certain amount of responsibility and accountability.
  • Fluid project roadmaps: features, enhancements and fixes targeted for a particular release are rarely committed to well beforehand.
  • New Technologies: if it is not well understood internally it can have a detrimental effect on the developer's efforts going forward.
  • Extra-functional requirements: constraints and boundaries placed on an application due to certain open source ingredients.
Hodson has over 20 years of experience in delivering market proven real-time enterprise applications for the financial and telecommunications industries. He writes that "By applying an architecture-centric approach a developer's open source strategy can successfully address the challenges of open source software.".

His article looks at Using Architecture To Address Open Source Challenges, including Architectural Style, Architectural Framework the following Best Practices: Agile-centric development; Component-based development; Single purpose application of open source; Separation of concerns.

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