Companies that use Open Source Software (OSS) find that it offers the most flexibility of any third-party software alternative. You are, for example, never locked into a vendor, their costs, their buying structures, or their re-distribution terms. Open Source enables vendor independence.
In addition, using OSS speeds development, lowers costs, and keeps companies on the cutting edge of technology by facilitating innovation. Open source communities provide a low-cost medium for incubation and testing of new capabilities. While open source ecosystems direct ownership and accountability back to the development teams.
All of this adds up to a competitive advantage for organizations that use OSS.
Why Is Open Source Software More Flexible?
Open Source offers the most flexibility of any third-party software alternative. Here’s why:
● Vendor independence — as mentioned above, you are never locked into a vendor.
● No contractual limits on deployment — OSS often has very liberal terms attached to it for deployment, so you have the greatest possible flexibility on platforms, numbers of users, number of processors, or any other scaling factor that could impact the price of proprietary software.
● Source code allows customization — Because you’re in possession the source code, you may also customize OSS to meet your needs. And if your customizations are of value to others, the community may support your modifications in future releases.
● Open source communities encourage and facilitate customization — making it easier to extend the solution for particular use cases or to integrate with other products.
● Ongoing collaborative community support and maintenance – healthy Open Source communities provide ongoing support and encourage input and suggestions for improvements.
How Does Open Source Software Support Innovation?
OSS was originally conceived as a way to facilitate development and innovation through collaboration. The open source approach has proven so effective for innovation, that many leading edge software technologies are driven by open source communities. For example:
● The Internet has been developed primarily as a large collection of individual, but related, open source projects.
● Software development tool innovation and integration is largely an open source domain.
● The incredible rate of innovation in the mobile communications space is only possible through OSS. Although Android is the primary example, even proprietary platforms like Apple’s iOS are largely built from open source components, like BSD Unix.
● Like the rest of the Internet, social media software has emerged from and grown through open source.
● The arena of scientific computing and massively parallel computing are almost exclusively open source domains.
Many open source communities exhibit rapid evolution that can be harnessed through participation to speed your company’s or your organization’s innovative processes. The open source ethos of bottom-up meritocracy directs ownership and accountability back to development teams. One of the best ways to introduce a new software idea, test new capabilities, and grow an active user base is through an open source community.
And finally, the innovation that open source enables is not just in the technical arena. The lack of contractual constraints in open source licensing allows for creative new uses, new distribution schemes, flexible and creative packaging and pricing approaches, and other forms of business and market innovation.
In today’s rapidly evolving markets, companies that consistently innovate, most quickly, at the least cost, will win. NOT USING open source software may place your organization at a disadvantage.
However, there are some operational challenges that companies must face when they embrace the open source development revolution. We’ll cover some of these challenges next week and then finish up the series with an overview of some of the legal risks involved with poorly managed OSS.