Open Source in Enterprise and its benifits

Open Source is attractive because of its characteristics – Low cost, easy access, expansive license terms. All of these given for free gives open source a compelling value proposition. The time has gone when enterprises used to wait for a software that comes wrapped with the sales and a typical support structure. Many enterprises have successfully applied open source within their infrastructures. Open source serves as the foundation for successful Web 2.0 companies like Facebook and YouTube.

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Why should Enterprise move to Open Source?

  • Enterprise IT organizations are experiencing significant pressure on the cost. Many Enterprise IT organizations face pressure from their customers to reduce the overall billing rate by 3 – 5%. Many parent companies have mandated to cut the IT spending by 3 – 5%. Combining the billing and expenditure reduction with inflation means in real terms, Enterprise IT is living with 7 – 8% reduction budget each year.
  • Though many companies are taking measures like keeping a tab on head count, reducing operation cost, and freeze on salary hikes etc, it is hard to stay alive in the prevailing market condition unless it reduces the cost of software licensing and as a result reduce IT budgets.
  • Software licensing costs is a significant portion of IT budgets and is rising driven by consolidation in the segment. The acquiring software vendors are raising support fees in order to pay off their acquisition costs. The cost is indirectly passed on to the Enterprise IT.

Six benefits if Enterprises implement open source?

  1. Agility and Scale: Enterprises IT Organizations will be able to quickly develop and modify software systems to respond to rapidly changing business conditions
  2. Breaking Vendor Lock-in: Adopting to open source will reduce proprietary vendor dependence that is controlling enterprise IT architectures
  3. Quality and Security: Open Source will improve the operations of enterprise infrastructure by leveraging open source characteristics of transparency and rapid improvement
  4. Cost: Open Source will reduce overall IT operational costs by implementing free or low-cost open source software
  5. Autonomy: Enterprise will not depend on US-based software companies for their local economic developments and will become more independent
  6. Innovative solutions: benefit by creating new business offerings by tying various open source pieces or creating open source products to reduce operational costs and make new offerings at less cost to bring to market

The number of actual job postings from large enterprises on open source skill set is a direct indication to open source adoption in organization. Open source recruitment is between 5 and 15 percent of total IT staff recruitment, indicating that open source is playing a significant role in today’s large IT organizations. This means that many IT organizations recognize the benefit of open source and they are using open source today. But, very soon they must move from ad hoc use to a more formal approach.

Six most relevant open source characteristics for enterprise IT organizations:

Open source and proprietary software are similar in one respect-they are both copyrighted intellectual property licensed under certain conditions to users.
However they differ with each other in many aspects that make them useful and appealing to IT organizations.

  1. Expansive licensing: Proprietary software licenses are usually quite restrictive in terms of use-limits on number of users, type or number of machines the software may be installed on, and there is usually a fee associated with obtaining a license. By contrast, open source has very expansive license conditions that encourage widespread use. Open source licenses impose no limitations on number of users or type or number of machines that may have the software installed. There are no license fees associated with open source software. Commercial entities may offer for-fee services, but these are not required in order to access the software itself, and are not a licensing condition.
  2. Development transparency: Open source development is carried out in the open. In most cases, product decisions are discussed extensively on mailing lists or in forums. All code may be examined. Reported bugs are listed and available for inspection. The development process itself is carried out in public, with all code check-ins also available for inspection. All releases and intermediate builds available for inspection. It is easy for a software user to ascertain the current state and history of an open source product. Users can easily communicate with product developers to understand their product decisions and offer opinions about the product’s functionality or direction.
  3. Ability to inspect source code: It is often extremely helpful to review the source code of a product to enable better integration with another product or merely to better understand how the product operates so as to ease use in production. Because open source licenses mandate source code availability, it is easy to study the product’s code and learn from it.
  4. Ability to modify source code: Not only is open source code available for inspection, the licenses also allow users to modify the source code. Anyone can add new functionality that better meets user needs. Furthermore, the code can be “contributed” back to the mainstream code base, which means that code modifications are automatically carried forward in subsequent releases, thereby reducing downstream maintenance efforts.
  5. Community: One of the most important characteristics of open source, and the foundation for successful open source projects, is community. Community is the combined pool of product developers and users; in essence, everyone concerned with a product. Free and honest communication is typical of community, with many peer user interactions typical of a vibrant community. Users can easily share their thoughts about the product with developers, leading to improved functionality and ease of use. The community also enables “corner case” use cases (i.e., unusual product applications that only a subset of users confront) to be exercised, with feedback about product capability in corner-case conditions directly fed back to developers. Finally, community allows peers to help one another solve problems, offering quick support and knowledge sharing. Community is often an unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) concept for new open source users from the business world, but, once experienced, is viewed as one of the defining strengths of open source software
  6. Redistribution rights: Open source licenses allow users (recipients of open source products) to distribute open source products to third-parties as part of the license conditions, without requiring permission from the original product distributor; this is referred to as redistribution. Redistribution can be of the original form of the product, or a modified form that contains code modified by the original code recipient. Redistribution enables community growth and also allows product users to create innovative business
    offerings without having to signal intention to product creators via a redistribution request.

Each of these characteristics is a valuable part of the overall open source license conditions. If an enterprise is using open source to pursue a particular business goal, it will find one or more of the characteristics particularly important, indicating what it should emphasize in its open source efforts.

It is important for IT organizations to understand these characteristics, as they will assist (or limit) the organization’s ability to best take advantage of open source software.

Reference: Open Source in the Enterprise, An O’Reilly Radar Report

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