What is Open Source?
OpenSource is multifaceted. Mainly, it is a business model that promotes a universal and free access to the design and source code of an application, as well as a universal redistribution of any and all modifications and improvements made by any person. With time, the concept behind Open Source took great expansion and became a very large community. For many businesses, it also became a philosophy. Today, it has grown in many different license models and many companies that promote them. For more information we propose that you consult the following Wikipedia article about Open Source.
What is Linux?
Linux is the kernel (the brain, if you will) of an OpenSource operating system initiated in 1986 by Linus Torvalds. It now figures in dozens of variants such as RedHat, Debian and many others. Each version has its own specialty and its target audience.
What advantages do Open Source products have on commercial products?
First and foremost, they are free. They are usually safer and often more stable, mainly for a very simple reason: a company developing a commercial product is limited in terms of resources. On the other hand, the open source community is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of programmers contributing voluntarily to said product, as well as thousands of users reporting every malfunction or discrepancy. The amount of brain matter analyzing the source code of a program, implementing security standards and helping each other to put out a sturdier product, establishes a unique and improved business model.
Is Open Source software such as Linux really free?
You can in fact download, install and use, for free and legally, OpenSource software. With some OpenSource software, targeting a specific business clientele, you have the option to buy a service/technical support contract. Other businesses will develop and sell additional plug-ins or features that can offer, for example, more complex management functions or other options for larger infrastructures.
By way of an example, The RedHat company develops a Linux distribution (named RedHat Linux Enterprise, aka RHEL). They then offer the source code of theoperating system for free to another entity who in turns offers an operating system under the name CentOS. However, the RHEL solution, which includes additional functionalities, is sold at extra cost and automatically comes with commercial technical support.
In sum, open source offers something for everyone and every budget, including the 0$ budget!
Is managing an infrastructure based on open source software more costly?
It all depends how you look at it. Firstly, service contracts for open source software, or based on open source software, often cost less than their commercial counter-parts. This being said, if we compare two stable solutions (open source and commercial) answering to the same needs, costs relating to resources, such as systems administrators, will often be equivalent (unless, of course, anything unforeseen arises).
In short, every operating system needs a regular maintenance in order to be stable and high performing, no matter the type of license used.