Monique Williams, Hyland SA, says the adoption of open source provides quick access to innovation and the latest technology, even today.

The use of open source software has been on the rise for some time, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses across the board are accelerating the digitization of their infrastructure, operations, processes and customer experience, and are turning to open source to achieve this goal.

That’s according to Dion Harvey, Red Hat’s regional CEO for sub-Saharan Africa, adding that many forward-thinking IT leaders see open source as an effective approach to faster innovation and faster time-to-market. As such, its use will only increase, with Gartner predicting that more than 70% of new native applications will be developed on an open source database this year.

Historically, open source has been a major enabler of infrastructure automation, cloud adoption, real-time analytics, cybersecurity, and more, making open source adoption a priority for many global enterprises.

Organizations are constantly faced with the decision of whether to buy off-the-shelf (COTS) software or build a custom solution themselves, says Seth Vai, WeThinkCode’s curriculum manager. “A common strategy is to buy COTS in areas that serve support functions and reserve custom development for areas that are likely to be key differentiators or unique problem areas for the business.

“Open source software is ubiquitous in the technology industry as it underpins most of the tools and infrastructure from which software solutions are built; in fact, most of the technical components, such as databases, operating systems, web servers, and cloud services, are developed and maintained as open source projects.”

Quintin Brusau, head of Red Hat Development at Datacentrix, believes that the growth of open source code can be attributed to the high demand of organizations for innovation and the requirement of an alternative to traditional proprietary software. “Many enterprises have moved to an open hybrid cloud model when demands have increased during the pandemic, but beyond these specific challenges, we are still seeing widespread adoption of open source. Approximately 95% of respondents to Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report said that enterprise open source is important to their organization’s overall enterprise infrastructure because of the innovation and agility this model enables. Not only does open source meet the growing demand for rapid application deployment by enterprises, its community-driven nature ensures that it is in a process of constant innovation, making it more flexible and providing many ways to solve problems.”

The ability to build and deploy software quickly is key to open source success, says Angel Barroy, a developer evangelist at Hyland. In a technology landscape where service lifecycles are getting shorter over time, easily combining small but meaningful building blocks is the key to success. This is a key feature of many open source projects – providing a reduced set of features exposed through standard integration layers.

Talking about the benefits of using open source, he says that in 2022 it is still true that adopting open source provides rapid access to innovation and the latest technology, which was the traditional reason to start using open source. But as the market evolved, simplifying the transition to the cloud and improving security strategies were identified as key benefits of adopting open source. Security is no longer based on trade secrets; from cryptography standards to vulnerability databases, today’s way to improve security is through collaborative efforts that take place in the public arena.

“Open source drives innovation,” agrees Harvey. “The pace at which open source technologies are evolving is much faster than in the closed, proprietary world. By embracing open source technologies, they are effectively innovating at the pace of the global community.”

The world of software is undergoing a fundamental shift: thanks to global collaboration, open source is leading software transformations in nearly every industry.

Dion Harvey, Red Riding Hood

When it comes to security, the perception that open source software isn’t as secure as proprietary software has been turned on its head, he says. “This year’s State of the Enterprise Open Source Report found that 89% of IT leaders believe enterprise open source is as secure as or more secure than proprietary software.”

He adds that the rise of open source can also be attributed in part to significant cost reductions. As the world moves to a subscription-based approach to software, buying software as an asset is obsolete, and businesses can save costs by using open source.

There are also several major open source initiatives. Brusau says companies are now actively seeking to adopt an open hybrid cloud model. Linux can and does run anywhere, and many cloud computing and always-on services have been built using an open source model. “What’s more, we’re seeing a growing adoption of a DevOps culture in South African businesses, with more local businesses exploring the use of containers and Kubernetes to bring applications to market faster. This is in line with a Red Hat report, which states that “containers, Kubernetes for associative container orchestration, and the vast number of complementary open source cloud projects may be the best examples of new software categories.” About 70% of IT leaders surveyed work in organizations that use Kubernetes, and nearly a third plan to significantly increase their use of containers over the next 12 months.”

Boroy adds that the number of companies using the cloud is growing, and almost every cloud deployment relies on open source products. “The Linux Foundation hosts and supports cloud-based open source projects to provide a mature and professional technology stack to support large business deployments. But the foundation doesn’t just care about the cloud; new security requirements arising from this new environment are also under the organization’s umbrella, including automated scanning tools for the release process and the advancement of new security technology patterns such as blockchain.”

Harvey says application deployment is no longer solely an IT operations concern. Organizations that need to be first to market with modernized capabilities are turning to more agile methodologies like DevOps. But the open source approach has always been flexible in nature. Fostering collaboration across teams is an integral part of this: the tools and resources developers need are integrated and designed for seamless collaboration. Culturally, this forces a new way of thinking – by breaking down barriers between teams and encouraging open collaboration, organizations can develop better software faster. And in fast-growing software markets, this is proving to be an important advantage.

Remember that open source does not necessarily mean free software.

Angel Borough, Highland

Open source is also increasingly important to the adoption of new technologies. “Our surveys found that 80% of IT leaders expect to see increased use of enterprise open source software in areas such as edge computing, IoT and artificial intelligence or machine learning. Again, this is primarily due to the speed of innovation that occurs in the open source community,” says Harvey.

However, despite all the benefits, open source is not without its risks and challenges. For Borroy, the lack of internal skills to adopt open source, mostly related to the cloud paradigm, is probably the main challenge expressed by organizations.

“Remember that open source does not necessarily mean free software. There are many companies that provide customers with an open source experience that includes real-time support, expanding services and security patches. The difference between the services provided by commercial software and open source companies is approaching a limit if only the availability of the source code is identified as a differentiator.”

A major challenge for enterprises is how a mission-critical application built using open source tools and toolkits that go into production can be supported and certified. This is where enterprise open source companies play an important role, as these organizations are also helping to defuse security concerns around open source, and this has been recognized with a shift in perception in the market, Brusau says.

Harvey says it’s an exciting time to be involved in open source. And it’s also exciting to see traditional organizations that may not have been convinced five or ten years ago moving to the open source way of thinking. “The world of software is undergoing fundamental change: thanks to collaboration on a global scale, open source is leading software transformations in nearly every industry.”

* This feature was first published in the August issue of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine.

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