The evolving benefits offered by open source software

Not so long ago, open source software (OSS) was dismissed as the ugly stepchild of enterprise software packages. OSS was widely viewed as a cheap, unreliable, and problematic alternative to licensing proprietary software packages from major software vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP.

Today, OSS is widely installed, accepted, and acknowledged as the future of software for computing infrastructure and applications. Even major vendors of proprietary software packages have jumped into co-existing with OSS and offering related services.

OSS permits licensees to run, modify, and copy the source code without a license cost. Often OSS can also be re-distributed by licensees if they so desire. Well-known OSS examples include Linux, ERPNext Cloud, and a considerable amount of software from the Apache Software Foundation such as Hadoop, HTTP Server, and Spark.

In the past, affordability was the main reason for deploying OSS. Today the benefits of OSS extend much further by supporting:

  1. Shorter time to market for new concepts and capabilities.
  2. Innovation in products and services.
  3. Digital transformation of organizations.

These OSS benefits have led to widespread and growing adoption.

OSS operates a capable software development community

OSS is typically enhanced and maintained by a talented community that is committed to software quality and continuous improvement. Often the community consists of unpaid but experienced individuals. Some licensees support the community by allowing their paid staff to spend part of their time on open source community work.

When the community is sufficiently large and active, its software production is superior to that of the staff of proprietary software vendors. The size of the development and support staff of a proprietary software vendor is constrained by the net revenue of the software vendor.

This community aspect of OSS can lead to faster introduction of new concepts and capabilities with fewer defects than is possible with proprietary software.

OSS provides freedom

OSS licenses provide the licensee with the source code to the software. Having access to the source code allows the licensee to make modifications to the software. This freedom to do what you want with the software provides the following benefits:

  1. More responsive to changing business requirements.
  2. Faster resolution of software defects.
  3. Scheduling a migration to a newer version of the software is determined by your organization as opposed to being mandated by the vendor.

Proprietary software vendors provide the licensee with the object code to the software package. This limits the licensee by:

  1. Preventing the licensee from making changes to the software.
  2. Creating dependence on the support infrastructure of the software vendor.
  3. Creating reliance on the new feature definition and release schedule of the software vendor.

Organizations can use the freedom that OSS provides to pursue innovation in products and services.

OSS is required for digital transformation

To achieve meaningful steps along the path to digital transformation, organizations need a lot of software to enable maximum automation and business process improvement. Example include software components for:

  1. Software-defined computing infrastructure (SDI).
  2. Development operations (DevOps) because no organization can rely entirely on software packages.
  3. A hybrid cloud based on OpenStack or an alternative.
  4. A more sophisticated suite of applications.

All this software is available from various OSS communities. It’s not conceivable that an individual organization can acquire and maintain all this software from proprietary software vendors plus in-house DevOps.
Instead, organizations can use this rich variety of OSS to pursue digital transformation.

OSS offers zero software license costs

Often the initial reason for deploying OSS is zero software license costs. Licensing a proprietary software package requires paying a significant license fee.

Also, OSS licenses typically cover an unlimited number of end-users while the fee for proprietary software packages increases with the number of end-users. Zero software license cost allows organizations to spend their resources on innovation and digital transformation.

What issues and benefits have you encountered as you contemplate deploying more OSS? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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