What’s fuelling open source adoption in organisations?

5 Mar 2018

Aeroplane refuelling. Image: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

What is behind the recent surge in innovative organisations using open source platforms? DevOps and Linux expert Karel Striegel explains.

Not long ago, open source software (OSS) was dismissed as a cheap alternative to proprietary software. Today, open source is acknowledged as the future of software for innovative organisations, allowing IT departments to accelerate the process of bringing their ideas to market.

Even Fortune 500 companies allow open source to drive their organisations by encouraging developers to use OSS to improve software packages constantly while reducing costs.

Open source is cost-effective because companies save money and lessen technical debt by debugging and improving existing OSS.

For example, using the open source versions of proprietary software packages eliminates the need for expensive licences. Installing the software comes with no fees and no limits on the number of software installations.

Affordability was the main reason for using OSS in the past, but today the benefits of open source extend far beyond low costs.

By 2015, 78pc of companies worldwide depended on open source for essential operations. Reasons cited for the surge in OSS adoption include digital transformation within organisations, the integral relationship forming between open source and cloud technology, the acquiring of OSS, and reduced liability risks.

Enabling digital transformation

Small and large businesses now rely on digital transformation to thrive. As organisations continue to grow and shift, digital technology is keeping up with evolving business needs to combine workload processes with the latest software advances.

While all organisations hope to bring products to market quickly, they also aim to use software to meet company goals. Open source provides developers with additional flexibility because software features can be altered in various ways. Upon determining the necessary changes, extensions can be made and the process of software modification can begin.

With its high level of speed and agility, OSS is currently powering some of the top online brands, such as Netflix and Amazon.

These are just a few of the companies adopting OSS to measure the success of their programs through sales. Success is further analysed through OSS based on the number of product views and consumer interactions.

There’s freedom in the cloud

Collaboration fuels the cloud. Open source continues to populate the cloud, helping businesses operate faster without major consideration of costs. In today’s digital age, operating from the internet-based software of the cloud is changing how members of an organisation store and retrieve information.

OpenStack serves as a prime example of cloud OSS. This software manages vast amounts of data from its API or dashboard and offers public development environments and private installations with possible manipulations made through OpenStack software development kits.

Furthermore, vendor lock-in doesn’t change the accessibility to OSS. Once the software is made public, its creators may unexpectedly change directions, leading them to drop the software.

Or perhaps, the original developers are no longer in business. In the world of open source, independence is one of the founding principles of the community. No company relies on another, so software remains accessible without the involvement of the original designers.

Companies can acquire OSS

Following the original development of OSS, developers make the software accessible to the public. This software is studied, modified and built upon to make each updated version better than its predecessor.

By building on OSS and closing it, companies reduce the costs associated with software development from the ground up.

As commercial companies modify open software code, they can limit permissions to the modifications that have been made, acquiring the updated version as their own. Acquiring open source software is a topic that still tends to fly under the radar when discussing OSS, but it is possible and becoming more of a common practice.

Legal liability is no longer a primary concern

In the past, many organisations worried about the merging of OSS and proprietary software because of the possible legal ramifications involved. These concerns were so prevalent that 42pc of businesses were hesitant to adopt open source.

As OSS grew in popularity, legal professionals acknowledged the considerations of intellectual property and liability. As a result, lawyers began to specialise in IP violations and the decision-making processes associated with companies using open source.

While open source does provide free software, this isn’t the case 100pc of the time. There are licences that prohibit private use and modifications by developers.

Before modifying code during program development, consultations with a legal team specialising in open source have surfaced to advise organisations against choices that may result in legal action being taken against the company, offering an additional level of protection for businesses.

Today, the benefits of adopting open source technologies extend beyond just lowering costs.

The surge in OSS adoption is likely only to rise as the relationship between open source and cloud technology continues to strengthen, and more and more organisations realise the benefits of building and collaborating on OSS, rather than developing new software from the ground up.

By Karel Striegel

Karel Striegel is a certified Linux systems engineer with a strong background in DevOps. Recently, he co-founded FundRequest, a new blockchain platform built specifically for the funding, claiming and rewarding of open source contributions.