The mention of ‘Open Source Software’ conjures up a mixture of thoughts such as:
On a positive note:
- Free software
- Very reliable, robust and well tested components
- Can be modified and used
- Selfless developers working on this
- Lots of review points before it is released
- Mostly each component exposes and operates on open standard and protocols
On a negative note:
- Who owns the solution and who will support this?
- How secure are these components since anybody can see the code?
- How easy is it to upgrade the solution?
- Need experts in-house to maintain the solution
- Not easy to use, configure and deploy (deep technical expertise required)
- What will happen when I scale up my business? How will this step up?
The points mentioned above are a matter of perspective and a matter of reference since anybody can simply reverse the two lists (give and take a few more points) and make a claim on proprietary software with listed positives and negatives.
The OSS software landscape spans the entire width like operating systems, application servers, server components, server tools, client software, widgets, plugins, etc. There would easily be over 100,000 open source projects listed on Source Forge.
I would say that typically when a corporation decides to use an open source software based solution for their needs, they are already pro-open source (read this as more inclined to put their faith on the positives of open source), while at the same time, they would like the negatives to be worked out/mitigated.
Many organizations start their open source journey by downloading and stitching the components together using in house expertise or that of an external consultant. The “expert” hand assembles a solution with the chosen OSS components using the documentation available, hands over the documentation and is onto the next assignment. This is what we call a home grown OSS based solution. While this approach may deliver on the list of positives related to OSS mentioned above, it does precious little to mitigate the risks presented in the negative list above.
Soon the organizations who deploy home grown solutions based on OSS hit road blocks when the consultant is no more available, technology changes, requirements change, systems fail with inadequate thought given to availability, etc.
The environment above has given birth to a type of IT company/organisation, who looks at the problems with OSS as an opportunity and creates packaged products based on OSS components to mitigate the risks/disadvantages associated with open source software.
Companies and Organisations like these (E.g. Red Hat, Mithi, etc) work on –
- Creating a platform to integrate many diverse OSS components
- Developing specific add-on engines/applications
- Provide an installation and automatic upgrade framework
- Provide a unified interface to manage, monitor and use the solution
- Provide the consulting, deployment and maintenance services to enable the customer to effectively use the product
- Keep the solution up-to-date by constantly looking at new technology and business needs.
- Build a community of customers / partners for the solution. Partnerships to support technology development, additional accessories to complete or enhance the solution, onsite deployment and support (FM services), sales etc.
- Research on enterprise needs such as scalability, availability to see how more can be done with less.
- Create a Security Framework, which integrates all aspects viz., Data security, Channel security, Authorization etc. This may involve developing specific modules to augment the security capability of the individual components like easy to use mail flow control policies.
Behind the scenes, the teams of these companies continually research open source components, test and integrate latest versions of these components, contribute back to the communities by improving the components, manage versions of the products, provide hot fixes, patches, updates, via their sites, provide deep documentation, training to the customers for their product.
Research and popular wisdom suggests that inhouse IT teams of corporations should spend maximum time leveraging IT for creating solutions, which provide their business an edge.
We recommend taking a hard look and seeing what projects your IT team is working on. Are any of these home grown and hand crafted IT solutions? If so you may want to consider replacing those with packaged shrink wrapped products based on OSS components to retain the benefits of OSS while mitigating the associated risks/disadvantages and also possibly freeing up lots of resource in the bargain.
Mithi’s Connect Xf provides you the Linux/ Open Source advantage along with the benefits of a shrink wrapped product. Get in touch with us to know more.