10 reasons why open source is conquering the world

Open source is on the rise in the corporate sector. Ten reasons why companies avoid proprietary software. Open source software, once the domain of tech hobbyists, is making impressive strides in the business software world. By 2016, according to Gartner, open source software will be part of virtually all business-critical enterprise software portfolios. Open source has also grown strongly; it is estimated that there are now about a million open source projects. Ten reasons for the increased popularity of open source.

1. Quality

The main reason users say they go for open source is quality, according to a survey by open source software company Black Duck and that is a big change. In 2011 this was cited as the fifth reason. As open source projects gain momentum and more professionals contribute to the code, stability improves, interfaces are streamlined, and bugs are addressed faster. An important factor that also has to do with this is the simplification of the rollout. That overweight jumped from sixth place last year to third this year in the same survey - another sign that open source projects are rapidly maturing. In fact, many open source products are easier to install than proprietary equivalents. In addition, there is often no purchase or complicated purchase process involved.

2. Featureset

The Linux Foundation called in the tech investors of Yeoman Technology Group to map out whether companies are going to use Linux more. That study shows that 80 percent of the companies surveyed are rolling out more Linux products over the next five years - the rest are investing in using Windows. The number of companies using Linux for business-critical applications has increased from 60 percent in 2010 to 73 two years later. Naturally, savings played an important role in this. Even with support costs added, using open source within IT is much cheaper. But price was not the most important factor, the researchers say. In first place, according to Yeoman, is the feature set. That's a big difference from the early days of open source technology, when commercial products were generally more complete and robust. 

3. Security

Security was once seen as the Achilles heel of open source, but that has long since changed. The Black Duck survey mentioned earlier shows that 72 percent of respondents chose open source precisely because of security. With open source, the code can be checked internally for vulnerabilities. This does not always happen and is not shared enough in the community, but the option is being used more and more. "The transparency is beautiful in itself," said Daniel Polly, information security officer at a major US banking chain. "But more importantly: when software starts working with data, I like that I can see what happens to the data stream." He says that the bank uses Snort, for example. Commercial suppliers are under increasing pressure to match the offerings of open source producers, says the IT specialist, including in the field of security.

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4. Faster innovation

Traditional suppliers invent and develop their products themselves. Open source vendors don't start empty-handed - they innovate on top of a common ground and therefore projects don't have to be built from the ground up. The software can be prepared for specific purposes, which speeds up the development process. Take OpenStack clouds, which offer services similar to Amazon, but differentiate themselves with a wide range of different services and tailor-made cloud solutions.

5. Scalability

Proprietary software is often aimed at a specific market segment, for example the SME or the corporate sector. Open source projects have less of that, because they are built for a specific customer requirement. Groupon's Head of Business Intelligence, Rafael Herrera, says the company was built almost entirely on open source software in its start-up phase. "The most important factor - other than the cost savings - for us was scalability," says the Groupon chief. "We needed a framework that could support dynamic growth, so our IT backbone is built almost entirely with open source technology." For example, Groupon uses an open source data integration platform from Talend.

6. Customizations

Open source software allows handy users to work with the source code to modify it. As a result, software that has actually been built for an entire sector can quickly be customized for a specific organization. So it comes as no surprise that the ability to easily modify software is one of the top 5 reasons for open source from the Black Duck study. Last year this reason was in eighth place, now it is in fourth place.

7. Collaboration

In the past, when different companies wanted the same functionality, they built it from scratch, used a product from an outside supplier, or formed a consortium to create and support the product. Open source makes this a lot easier, because companies can more easily work together on a product, which in turn saves time and money, leaving more room for projects that differentiate themselves. According to the Black Duck survey, half of companies contribute to open source and even 56 percent intend to work more on open source this year. By being involved in the development process, companies can influence the way this software develops and build good relationships with other developers.

8. Standards

It would be nice if standards were set by intelligent opinion makers who chose the best path for the entire industry to move forward the fastest. But in practice, standards often de facto arise based on the popularity of products - take Microsoft's Word .doc format. A successful open source project can perform the same function without the additional risk of vendor lock-in. Take Apache Web Server, for example, which grew at the time of the booming web. The accessible platform ensured that many web standards were embraced in the early days of the web.

9. State-of-the-art

Open source software no longer lags behind proprietary platforms in approaching functionality, but nowadays more often demonstrates how it should be done. Much high-profile open source software is driving mobile platforms, cloud, big data and IoT, accelerating the evolution of these platforms. Or how about the web itself, which is largely built on a stack of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Even in the newest domain (back with a vengeance), virtual reality, open source environments, such as OpenSim, Open Wonderland and Open Qwaq, are making a name for themselves.

10. Cost

Of course, cost cannot be left out of this list, as it remains an important consideration for many organizations implementing open source to reduce costs. Of course, open source does not mean that everything is free. Business suppliers charge for certain versions, for support, or for customization. A company must also devote internal resources to adapting and integrating open source software. But cost is no longer the determining factor, according to the stories of companies we spoke to and the two studies mentioned. Open source offers more quality, security and most importantly, it has reached a tipping point in adoption: it is widely deployed by giants such as Facebook and Google.

10 reasons why open source is conquering the world
Erwin van der Ploeg 18 september 2015
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