Open Source Software: Why is it too good to ignore?

open source freedom

Today open source software is more than just free stuff you get from the internet. Around 5 years or so back, almost half of the people who knew the word open source linked it to Linux-based operating systems. Corporates rarely used it on their mainstream business desks and Linux was confined primarily to server guys. But this picture has changed drastically especially with the progress made in mobility and cloud solutions over the years. A recent survey named Future of Open Source 2015 pointed out that over 78% of the 1300 or so respondents of the survey had open source software running in their business applications.

Open source has matured into such a level that you can find it almost anywhere you see an application running, be it on your mobile, your laptop, your smart watch and so on. It has become the foundation of building new gen software applications or apps should we say. Android, iOS and even Windows has several bits of open source code packed in at some stage of development. Open Source does not imply that the software is always free but it denotes the freedom that users have in extending or upgrading the capabilities that the core software offers. From user facing apps to core lying data center software, businesses are deploying open source software to bring out the best in their operational capability.

It’s mid-way into the year’s second quarter and Android has dominated the first quarter mobile shipment figures globally with 78% share according to IDC. Android is purely an open source software and as you all know, mobile phones are already a dominant force in our day to day lives. Apple too has its own share of open source additions in the iOS operating system. Add this to recent trends in BYOD and corporate mobility solutions; we have at hand a working world powered mostly by open source software. This is the picture we have in 2015. Just imagine the case in 5 years’ time or so. With open source software driven revenue figures to peak at $57 billion or more by 2020 we are seeing a tremendous phenomenon on the rise here.

Apart from using open source software to develop their own high level proprietary software, companies are now readily willing to contribute to the open source community. This explains why 88% of the companies participating in the same Future of Open Source 2015 survey have favored increasing contribution to Open Source projects. Collaboration between organizations are seen as a driving factor behind the rapid growth of open source software globally. Open source is everyone’s property and its existence matters to all and not just a few enthusiasts. A worthy mention in this regard is the trend of hardware architectures too going open source. Facebook started the Open Compute project which aims to share designs of data centers among participating members. Today it is being patronized and regularly revised by contributions from giants like Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. Similar moves can also be seen in chip and microprocessor architecture information among corporations such as Intel.

The basic aim of bringing in open source philosophy in hardware and software is to foster collaborative innovation. The best minds in any industry may be scattered across multiple organizations. With such an open ecosystem, it is possible to combine their skills and create innovative products which can perhaps reshape industry standards. Even though companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, etc. are core sellers of proprietary software, they are never against open source and have in-fact several in-house teams catering to open source innovations. Microsoft’s Azure cloud system supports a large number of open source frameworks and applications which is a clear indication of the software giant’s love for open source technology. Companies like Microsoft has realized the growing need to make their proprietary software more open source as it leads to better testing and ultimately more reliability. They have so many bright minds who can convert such robust open source projects into commercial products which have the potential to offset the revenue loss incurred by going open source.

Though open source software is widely accepted, there is a fair share of risks involved in creating a software development ecosystem powered by open source philosophies. The biggest concern among them being the complex nature of Intellectual Property rights that govern open source licenses and projects that use them. Taking ownership for a commercial use of open source software is not an easy task as there are tons of hurdles you need to cross to get everything right. But investing in them is worth an effort if you take into consideration the many benefits such alliances have to offer. The benefits that are up for grabs explains why the Future of Open Source 2015 survey had 66% of participants pledging to take an open source first approach to software development in their organization. Security was a matter of high concern as the code developed in an open source project was accessible to pretty much anyone. Nevertheless it is now possible to foster development projects with high security standards and companies have figured out ways to integrate open source code into their high security software frameworks thereby resulting in highly secure products.

It is wrong to say that the future is open source as we have already navigated more than halfway into that future. Open source is too good a framework to be neglected for its open nature and with the influence it has in modern software ecosystems, it is hard to imagine any application making it to the spotlight without a bit of open source code in them. On the contrary, if you are wondering about the possibilities open source technology can bring to reality in your business, drop us a mail and we will show you the clear cut path to integrating open source software in your business applications.

Author : Rahul Suresh Date : 19 Aug 2015