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Enterprises are adopting open source software now more than ever, according to most estimations, a shift accelerated by factors such as the push toward cloud infrastructure and the ongoing pandemic.

Many of the major tech companies not only use open source software but contribute code and even open-source their own tools when it makes sense. Open source, it seems, has eaten the world.

However, the sheer number and variety of open source software packages can make it difficult for even the largest of businesses to determine what’s best for their needs, not to mention which ones will work well together as part of a broader open source software stack. This is the problem OpenLogic is targeting with Stack Builder, a free tool designed to help enterprises build a customized open source stack.

OpenLogic, for the uninitiated, delivers open source services, support, design guidance, training, and more. The company was founded as EJB Solutions back in 1998 and rebranded as OpenLogic in 2004. In 2013, it was acquired by Rogue Wave Software, which was in turn acquired by Perforce six years later. OpenLogic claims a number of notable enterprise clients, such as Fannie Mae, which used OpenLogic to migrate from Oracle Java to OpenJDK, and Moody’s, which used OpenLogic to migrate from RHEL to CentOS.

Vertically integrated

Traditionally, enterprises have been inclined to use commercial off-the-shelf software solutions that are vertically integrated, something viewed as “anti-ethical” by the open source software world, OpenLogic chief architect Justin Reock told VentureBeat. “So enterprises seek to recreate that experience by curating a full stack of open source packages and treating it as a single solution,” he said. “There is no place to go to get this curated stack and to understand the best choices for their use cases.”

That, in a nutshell, is what Stack Builder attempts to solve. OpenLogic first debuted Stack Builder last year, though it was a much more primitive, static incarnation based on a Q&A format. Version 2.0, which launched this week, takes a more dynamic template-based approach, replete with a drag-and-drop interface.

After submitting an email address, to which OpenLogic will later send a personalized report, the user is faced with a display divided by various categories spanning application delivery, data layer, front end, monitoring, operating system, VM/containers/cloud, and workflow.

Above: Stack Builder: Build your open source stack

The user then selects their package category from the menu and populates the “stack” by dragging and dropping packages from the options available.

Above: Stack Builder: Drag and drop your packages by category

Alternatively, OpenLogic provides a bunch of prebuilt templates, such as the lightweight Java or PHP stack, and automatically selects what it deems the best open source software packages.

Above: Stack Builder: Template

Afterward, OpenLogic sends the user a report that outlines the purpose of each of the packages, what they are typically used for, and — as you might expect — how to put it all together by employing OpenLogic’s services.

Above: Segment from a Stack Builder report

Making choices

The problem Stack Builder is trying to solve is not new by any stretch. Open source software intersects with just about every piece of software these days, from scripts that help servers run faster to code that contributes to systems architecture and APIs. But estimates suggest there are at least 1.5 million JavaScript packages alone.

There are other tools and platforms designed to help developers dig through the weeds, such as Openbase, which provides data on the millions of open source packages — including figures on weekly downloads, monthly commits, and even user reviews. With Stack Builder, OpenLogic is bringing curation to the table and has narrowed down the options to what it believes are the best open source packages.

“We have curated this selection because these are open source technologies proven to work for enterprise requirements, at enterprise scale,” Reock explained. “They have all passed OpenLogic certification — which includes a 72-point checklist that gauges aspects of community behavior, enterprise adoption, responsiveness to security vulnerabilities, and sponsorship by broader industry organizations, such as the Linux foundation.”

Moreover, not all open source software plays nicely together, perhaps due to incompatible protocol layers or standards that have not been implemented correctly. As such, Stack Builder not only serves as a curator, but as a compatibility tester and evaluator as well.

“Open source projects are developed by completely different communities — which may or may not adhere to the open standards, or may have different interpretations,” Reock said. “Critical elements that determine interoperability include following standards, wide adoption and testing, [and] interaction with other products and packages.”

Stack Builder is designed to give users the best options for their use cases through a “living tool” that is constantly updated with new or better technologies as they evolve. If nothing else, it should save companies a little time and help them better understand the open source software landscape from a security, stability, and interoperability perspective.

So what’s the alternative?

“The alternative is to do a lot of research on your own, search community threads, and ultimately test and try to really understand if the stack’s components will work together for your use cases at enterprise scale,” Reock said.”[That involves] lots of time and trial and error.”

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