The choice engine is an Italian job

Galoppini has created a methodology, and software, that lets him give enterprises an in-depth comparison of several open source projects in a given area very quickly.

One of the greatest things about open source is it opens up opportunities for people and companies around the world.

In the past I've covered open source start-ups from Russia, from France, and even from Atlanta.

Last week I was privileged to visit with another innovator, in Rome, Italy.

Roberto Galoppini (right) is solving one of the biggest problems this fast-growing market faces, the problem of choice.

If an enterprise wants to go with open source, they first have to decide which package to commit to. It's not like going with a proprietary solution. There are many factors to consider, from the maturity of the code, to its features, to its license and copyrights, to the strength of the community.

And the data is in many, many different places. You can't just send someone to a trade show and expect them to come back with the knowledge you need. Even a Web search will just bring you data, not answers.

That's where SOS Open Source comes in. After sifting through many different data repositories, Galoppini has created a methodology, and software, that lets him give you an in-depth comparison of several projects in a given area very quickly.

The finished reports include numbers and graphs. They are very visual. He collects your requirements, runs the data, then delivers the results within a very short time.

It's a little bit of software, a soupcon of research, and a dash of consulting, which can accelerate "buying" decisions significantly.

And even with free software, an enterprise faces a buying decision here, he explained over pasta and tiramisu in a charming Roman cafe within walking distance of Vatican City.

For any enterprise, the decision to depend on an open source project is a serious commitment of resources. You don't want to get halfway down the road and find you have taken a wrong turn. I did that on the way to lunch and it took a $14 cab ride to find my way back. For a scaled enterprise, the loss can be millions.

And this is why open source isn't more used than it is, he continued. Fair evaluations, based on knowledge of requirements and of what's available, can cost more to create than the margins proprietary companies may charge to take the problem off your hands.

No more. Which puts Mr. Galoppini in an interesting position, one I've seen many times in my years as a tech reporter. Now that he has this valuable service, how should he exploit it? Grow an open source presence in Rome, associate with a larger company, sell-out and start again? Or maybe move to Silicon Valley, as Funambol did.

It will be fun to find out.