Is Open Source the right approach for an enterprise? What makes Open Source unique and appropriate for a project? Various aspects, such as cost, flexibility, security, supportability, and stability, affect its long-term strategy. Let's explore why it makes sense to look beyond the high walls of propriety software and given open source a chance.
The tectonic plates keep shifting in the world of enterprise software. The inherent market dynamics and every changing landscape of user expectations drive enterprise behaviour. You may be hard-pressed to find areas where Open Source doesn't have its imprints. Be it enterprise products in banking, finance, healthcare, presence in telecommunication systems, middleware, utility software, or even operating systems. All these areas and beyond have intimately woven Open Source into their core architecture.
The State of Enterprise Open Source Report 2020 from Red Hat describes that out of the industry leaders surveyed, 95% agreed that Open Source is essential, and 77% mentioned that open source adoption would increase in the next 12 months. Now Red Hat is the poster child of open source. We have similar reckonings almost everywhere else as well.
In their ninth annual Future of Open Source Survey, Black Duck Software state that open-source software is being used by more than 78% of all businesses surveyed.
There are some fundamental advantages of using Open Source over proprietary software. The following list a few of them.
Adaptable and Nimble
When enterprises write software product they aim for agility. They want to write adaptable code. If they don't do so, the competition will have their lunch! Open source allows organisations to avoid vendor lock-in. Your requested feature set may be collecting dust in the to-do pile of a large software vendor. But your business cannot wait; instead of looking out for the vendor to help you, with open source you can roll up your sleeves and address the immediate ask internally. It would be a different experience if you were to wait for a significant software player like Oracle or Microsoft to entertain your immediate needs, which may not be part of their road map.
Faster Time to Market
Time to market is what everybody is targeting. If you are not out of the gates fast enough, your competition will beat you to it, leaving you behind in the dust. With open-source, you can explore the numerous solutions which are available for free. With Red Hat changing the game on supportability for Open Source, you can have the cake and eat it too, metaphorically! You get the advantage of open source and enterprise like support features with Red Hat, so you are not left out in the cold when something goes wrong, especially when the viability of your business is at stake.
Open Source Software Affordable
Open Source Software is always less expensive (or at no cost) than a proprietary one. They also tend to be of better quality and more secure primarily because it has the support of thousands of eyes across the globe, and is not restricted by only the staff developers in proprietary systems. Typically, small and medium businesses have limited budgets to start with; looking at the open-source makes complete sense.
What about Security?
Open Source software is reviewed more rigorously because of the Open Source community, you always have multiple eyeballs, and if there are issues, they are immediately patched. Security has been a point of concern with Open Source and traditionally it was assumed that it wasn’t secure enough. It was felt so because the code was available to everyone, leaving it open to exploitation. This aspect is not a concern anymore.
Open source gives you the flexibility to start where you need to and quickly ramp up later. You can later migrate to commercially supported versions based on your business needs. If a particular project may not need enterprise support, you can still leverage the community support and keep building the prototype. You can sample multiple options and move according to the immediate business needs.
Availability of Talent
Open Sources gives developers the freedom to choose, hence it automatically invites the most talented developers. Most such skilled developers either have their own projects or are deeply embedded in pushing an existing established platform. There is also a strong sense in the industry's direction; the industry is heading towards Open Source, as mentioned by the Red Hat study. So it's natural to find talent in Open Source in the coming years.
As per the Future of Open Source Survey, the key sectors where Open Source will have a role to play in the next 2-3 years will be:
- Cloud Computing
- Big data and Analytics
- Operating systems
- Internet of Things
There are multifaceted benefits of Open Source. Apart from having a lower total cost of ownership, it also allows access to the latest innovations owing to its open community-based approach. Multiple eyes lead to higher quality software, which is inherently more secure. With changes like we see in Red Hat, enterprise-level support for Open Source is a reality for those who cared for this aspect. The most crucial element is the ability to customise applications at a faster clip and not wait for a vendor to release a specific feature you requested.
Open source holds the key to the future; the trends in mobile, cloud, big data, and the Web is now being built primarily on Open Source infrastructure. As per The State of Enterprise Open Source Report 2020, Proprietary software is quickly declining. The use of proprietary software is plummeting. The report states that 42% of the respondents indicated using proprietary software this year, down from 55% from last year's survey. So, there is a clear trend that is moving downwards for these proprietary software systems. They predict that proprietary software will be down to 32% of their software stacks two years from now! It's no surprise that proprietary software is being overlooked considering the high costs and vendor lock-ins. Community-based open source is not rising as rapidly as enterprise open source, but it's still moving upwards, and proprietary software is not.