Open-source software is big business, with the majority of enterprises now using at least one form of this technology ahead of proprietary solutions in their operations. One survey by Red Hat, for example, shows that 95% of businesses rate this technology as important to their strategy in 2020, while 77% expect to increase their use of open-source in the coming year.
The study also highlights:
- 83% of IT leaders say open-source is vital to their cloud architectures
- 86% of IT leaders agree the most innovative companies are using open-source
- Just 42% of software in use in 2020 is proprietary - down from 55% in 2019
This marks a major change in attitudes among chief information officers (CIOs). In the past, they may have been wary about the security of open-source tools or a perceived lack of vendor support, but it's clear these worries are fading as the advantages of open-source become clear and many people's biggest fears have proven unfounded.
As a result, open-source is making its way into almost every aspect of business, and even the world's biggest firms use this technology for their most innovative tools. For example, companies like DropBox and AirBNB both utilize Google's TensorFlow open-source AI tools to recognize text and categorize photos. Meanwhile, activities like big data analytics make major use of open-source options like MongoDB, with everyone from Facebook and Google to UPS adopting this platform.
So what's the appeal of open-source software? Here are seven key reasons why CIOs are increasingly turning their backs on proprietary tools in favor of open-source alternatives.
One of the major reasons for investing in open-source software is the cost savings that can be achieved. As well as the reduced upfront expenses that can be enjoyed due to the lack of software licensing requirements, ongoing maintenance and support costs are also reduced. Indeed, 30% of respondents to Red Hat's survey rated lower total cost of ownership as a key benefit of open-source.
Only one factor outranked cost for IT leaders in 2020, and that was the quality of the software, with one in three professionals polled by Red Hat (33%) naming this as a benefit. Open-source has long been a great enabler for innovation, as its nature means that with any developer able to see and work on the central code, there’s a large community able to offer their input and work together to develop a superior product than what may be possible with closed proprietary systems.
Many open-source projects are built to be scaled up, added to and modified quickly and easily. As such, if you're using strategies such as DevOps, open-source is likely to be essential to your success, as being able to edit and share code in real-time - both within the business and with the wider community - can boost productivity and speed up the time to market.
While there may be less direct support available from vendors, the vast communities of users that have built up around major open-source platforms mean you should never be short of an answer to any queries you have. Online forums and other communities often respond quickly to any issues, and in the unlikely event you have no luck with these freely-available resources, there are various levels of paid support on offer as well that can tackle more complex or business-specific challenges.
5. No vendor lock-in
Not being restricted to proprietary software that’ll leave you dependent on a single vendor is another key factor behind many open-source deployments. This means that, should a more up-to-date or suitable solution come along, organizations will be free to migrate to it without worrying about expensive break clauses or compatibility issues. It also means you won't be beholden to a single vendor's support system, or be at risk of failure should a proprietary supplier go out of business.
The benefits that arise from a lack of licensing requirements aren't restricted to the cost advantages. For instance, many vendors may have geographical restrictions on where their software can be deployed, which isn’t the case for open-source solutions. What's more, there’ll be far fewer legal agreements that’ll need to be signed off on, which both reduces the deployment time and improves the flexibility of a solution.
Having access to the source code of a software solution enables businesses to adapt and customize it to their own needs more effectively than would be the case with proprietary software. In-house developers can fork a program to create new features or security enhancements, for example, or remove a functionality they don’t use to make the solution more streamlined. This ensures the solution always meets the unique requirements of a business and can give companies a competitive advantage.