The InfoWorld Bossies are chosen annually by Test Center editors, analysts, and reviewers. The winners represent the best free and open source software we've used. In platforms and middleware, our choices can be credited to contributing editors James R. Borck, Victor R. Garza, Rick Grehan, Martin Heller, Randall Kennedy, Neil McAllister, and Paul Venezia.
Got an open source favorite we missed? Please send us a note.
Server Operating System
FreeBSD and OpenSolaris always enter the discussion, but our number one open source operating system has to be Linux… and our server has to be CentOS. In a nutshell, CentOS is the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux provided under a different label, without the maintenance and support of Red Hat, and consequently, without the cost of a Red Hat support contract. For Linux admins who don’t need that support, and there are more than a few, CentOS amounts to a free and unadulterated version of RHEL, and users can count on updates that follow quickly in the wake of Red Hat’s changes. Enterprise Service Bus
Part of the JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform that combines process orchestration supporting BPEL and jBPM, security and registry services, and the Drools rules engine, JBossESB bolsters integration and service mediation with transformation and content-based routing, business rules and policy management, and both service- and human-based workflow. There’s room for improvement in areas like adapters and change management, and some of the SOA suite’s functionality currently requires third-party add-ons. But JBoss plans to fill out the package with its own efforts, and the group is already busy working on its messaging underpinnings with JBM 2.0 performance enhancements in development. Database
While SQLite3 is extremely convenient for development and testing databases, and PostgreSQL has powerful Generalized Search Tree indexes and is very close to being enterprise-ready, MySQL is the choice for many Web sites thanks to its excellent read performance, transparent support for large text and binary objects, and incredibly easy administration. Stored procedures, functions, triggers, and updateable views were added to MySQL in version 5, overcoming the largest technical objections to its deployment at many sites. MySQL also has a large, helpful user base, and some poster-child deployments including eBay, Yahoo!, and Craigslist. MySQL Administration
If you want to manage MySQL over the Internet, then phpMyAdmin is your tool. Designed for the creation and administration of MySQL databases, it covers the gamut from mundane MySQL administration tasks and managing users and permissions to executing SQL statements and more advanced SQL management. It can also gather server and database statistics. For PostgreSQL, phpPgAdmin is a Web-based administration tool that does similar wonders for the administrator. Small-Footprint OS
Puppy Linux packs a remarkable amount of capability into a small area. The current release, 4.0, is available in a bootable ISO image that's less than 90 megabytes. It easily fits on -- and can boot from -- a USB pendrive. It can also boot from CD-ROM or of course a hard drive. It's a fine candidate if you want to run Linux within a VM (like VirtualBox) on your Windows system. Puppy loads entirely into RAM, so applications execute with surprising speed. Data Migration
For data migration headaches, we used to keep a bottle of our favorite over-the-counter painkiller handy. And then we found Jitterbit, which makes short work of moving data from one format to another, even where very large datasets are concerned. The UI is simple, portable “Jitterpaks” encourage sharing mechanisms among users, and a testing tool lets you know immediately whether the current settings for a source, an operation, or a target are valid or invalid. Add it all together, and Jitterbit easily moves ahead of other open source products in the space. Desktop Operating System
With Ubuntu 8.04, aka Hardy Heron, the best Linux desktop gets even better. Between a new kernel, a new version of the Gnome desktop, improved windowing and graphics layers, and a number of default configuration tweaks, nearly everything about Hardy Heron feels snappier and more responsive than the previous version. Windows and menus feel less sluggish, disk access is improved, and programs launch more quickly. The OS even boots faster. Throw in the new, Windows-friendly installer, and Ubuntu becomes especially attractive to novice Linux users. Desktop Virtualization
A modular VM solution that lends itself to integration and customization, VirtualBox supports Windows, Mac OS X, and various Linux distributions as hosts while providing a VMware-like laundry list of supported guest OSes. With version 1.5.0, VirtualBox introduced seamless windows, a knock-off of the Coherence and Unity features of Parallels and VMware Fusion, respectively. The VirtualBox implementation, however, represents the first time the capability has been available under both Windows and Linux. Server Virtualization
The pundits like to say that virtual machine monitors, or hypervisors, are becoming a commodity, and Xen is the reason why. Now a mature Version 3.2, the server virtualization platform for Linux supports a wide range of hardware and 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, Linux, Solaris, and BSD guests, providing a wealth of options for server consolidation. Xen is even pushing into advanced VMware territory with live VM migration, a feat unavailable to users of Microsoft’s Hyper-V.