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Why Open Source Usage Is Increasing in the Digital Workplace

February 01, 2021 Information Management
David Roe
By David Roe

If, as we have seen recently, many organizations are warming to the idea of open source technology, the change in attitudes can most likely be attributed to the productivity advantages of using open source applications enterprise-wide, or even across small teams.

Competitive Advantage

The result is that that use of open source can only grow in the future, according to Cory Hulen, CTO and co-founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based open core platform Mattermost. Companies like Kong and Gitlab represent a wave of organizations with open source foundations carving out enterprise market share. IBM acquired Red Hat over two years. “It’s a phenomenon that’s here to stay. The open source community has grown tremendously and continues to affect the trajectory of virtually every industry,” he said.

Using an open source community provides companies with a competitive advantage as the community can improve the breadth and quality of integrations available. And from a security standpoint, although open source does not guarantee 100% protection, it does provide the opportunity to rapidly improve security measures with thousands of eyeballs looking at your code.

But that is not all. The future is bigger than engineering and software development. The emerging next wave is more than companies adopting the open source development model — it is about embracing and applying how open source communities work and collaborate across all functions in the company. "People talk about the ‘future of work’ being thrust upon us with the pandemic," he added. "The truth is open source companies, and developers have been at the forefront of this movement for some time. The next wave is the mainstream learning from that experience and applying best practices."

User Feedback and Communication

Software teams that are migrating to a remote way of working will quickly realize that the open source development model is hard to compete with, and that the advantages of closed-source software development are evaporating just as fast.

OSS teams rely on the well-oiled and time-tested machinery that is open source for quickly iterating, gathering user feedback and communicating effectively and asynchronously, San Francisco-based Teleport CEO and co-founder Ev Kontsevoy, told us.

Closed-source software development falls short as value continues to shift from owning proprietary APIs, to having the best-in-industry ability to run software in production, securely and at scale. In other words, it is no surprise that Microsoft has embraced this with Azure.

Related Article: 6 Open-Source AI Frameworks You Should Know About

Corporate World Embracing Open Source

After going through multiple instances of innovation in the last decade, now the open-source software ecosystem is firmly embedded in the corporate world.  The COVID-19 outbreak and consequent adaptation of remote working have accelerated the businesses’ move towards digital frontiers, Nathan Sebastian, content marketer with Washington DC-based software research platform GoodFirms, said. He believes there are three ways open source is helping businesses with productivity:

1. Open-Source Software Tasks

Enterprises are looking for affordable and secure options for the activities such as time management and calendar, resource management, project and task management, file sharing and collaboration, etc. Open-source software is more cost-effective than proprietary software. As businesses are becoming aware of open source program alternatives providing all the same functionality, they naturally get inclined to use them.

2. Enterprise Innovation Centers

Even if the businesses are to reopen and remote working does not stay as a norm, open-source software will grow as a hub of continuous innovation. Linux and other popular database systems, tools to provision and manage servers, and even productivity tools such as LibreOffice are OSS.

3. Vendors Open-Sourcing Their Tech

As tech giants like Microsoft and Google attempt to beat AWS in the cloud wars, we can expect to see a great deal of high-quality open-source code being released.

Technology Agility

Open source also enables technology agility, typically offering multiple ways to solve problems, Avinash Chandra, founder and CEO of BrandLoom, told us. A significant advantage of open source is the ability to take the community versions, get started, understand whether they can solve your business problem, and begin to deliver value right away.

“Open source is generally much more cost-effective than a proprietary solution. With open-source, you can start small and quickly with community versions, and then migrate to a commercially-supported solution as your business requirements drive you there,” he said.

He added that commercial open source has a reliable information security record in a dangerous world. The responsiveness of the open-source community and vendors relative to information security problems has been excellent. “One of the fundamental advantages of open source is community involvement. Open source is the future,” he said.

Open Source in the Mainstream

Open source has become mainstream, and businesses are recognizing that. Businesses use open source in everything they do – from servers, to mobile phones, to cloud services – everything runs with open source.

Because of this, Heikki Nousiainen, co-founder and CTO at Finland-based Aiven,  said, businesses are also demanding open source components in their processes to gain   agility and the capabilities to move around and innovate faster. Naturally, these businesses now demand similar use cases from giants like Microsoft.

“I’m personally excited that Microsoft has become such a great open source community member. Its co-founding of the Open Source Security Foundation, for example, adds much-needed visibility and resources to the security considerations for open source projects and benefits the ever-growing number of businesses relying on open source for the critical workflows,” he said.

Open Source Challenges

There are problems though. Open source software has always been remotely distributed and took on many of 2020's challenges in stride without much of a challenge, Jeffrey Martin, AVP of product at New York City-based WhiteSource, said. However, other changes in 2020, especially increased geopolitical concerns regarding software supply chains, have presented increasing challenges ensuring the provenance and security of software that is inherently globalized.

Open source is constantly evolving, but the past few years has shown some of the cracks in the traditional open source models. These run from ensuring that the intent of open source creators, which is the free exchange of software to the benefit of all, does not result in a source of free development for non-participants to leap large profits from.

Open source developer communities have always faced challenges from foe-turned-friend Microsoft and other proprietary software makers. As Novonty noted, not even remote work disrupted open source developers and their commitment to maintaining trust and communication that open source communities run on. Open source is certainly well established and not going anywhere, but it's a certainty that it will continue to evolve in new ways to meet new challenges in the future.”

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