Open Source: Leaping Blindly Towards An Ideology

I’ve read many articles and papers over the years focusing on various trends du jour — all emerging and rising technologies that make sweeping claims and promises. Some have more staying power than others. Some boom and then bust, taking many casualties with them (dotcom bubble, anybody?). Others have the power to influence, shape and govern the IT landscape indefinitely.

However, new trends and big ideas are nothing without a solid business plan. And what many of these articles fail to address is the approach a decision maker should take to make the right choice for their specific use case. One example of this is the way in which some organizations are adopting open source — by blindly leaping towards this software solution like lemmings, dazzled by the ideology of distributed peer collaboration and transparency of process. Many fail to question what problem open source is actually solving for them or how it is helping them to differentiate within their industry.

The question is, can you really afford to base your critical IT decisions on an ideology alone?

No Guarantees

Open source software (OSS) is often described as being the most reliable, most secure and least expensive software solution available. These claims generalize somewhat. While OSS can be all of these things all of the time, it is more likely to be some of these things some of the time. There are absolutely no guarantees for every use case. Open source is an amazing movement and it’s enabled many innovations and opportunities over the years. However, it’s important to understand the risks of blindly choosing open source without reviewing and understanding the real business needs for doing so.

Open source never did mean “free as in beer”. In fact, many open source applications straddle a fine line between being useful enough to be implemented and crippling enough to warrant paying high support costs or eventually throwing in the towel and migrating to a proprietary solution.
The True Cost Of Free

Open source never did mean “free as in beer”. In fact, many open source applications straddle a fine line between being useful enough to be implemented, and crippling enough to warrant paying high support costs or eventually throwing in the towel and migrating to a proprietary solution. The monetization of open source is another bone of contention. Most proprietary solutions offer free customer and technical support, while the support costs for an open source solution can be astronomical.

And when it comes to community support and continuity, there are also no guarantees. The number of abandoned and dead projects on SourceForge show us this. In fact, they make the 70% commercial project failure rate look amazing!  Many of these defunct projects have been dropped simply because they became too hard to manage or were not economically viable. When you rely on an open source solution that suddenly becomes obsolete, you’re going to be in one hell of a dark place. You’ll need to replace it quickly with a suitable alternative or spend time and dollars to reverse engineer it.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll also find that many commercial products actually have thriving user communities.

Open Source Open Market

To some, one of the biggest attractions of open source is that it is non-proprietary. This may sound like a compelling benefit, but it carries a sting in its tail. Not only will developers be required to keep on top of innovation and contributing back to the open source community. There is also the pressing matter of security and intellectual property to consider. With their source code available on the open market, organizations could be vulnerable to losing their competitive edge to their rivals, or worse falling victim to malicious attacks that exploit the very code they have invested in.

The Importance Of Being Open (Standards, That Is)

While many organizations choose open source solely to lower costs and avoid vendor lock-in, they make the assumption that open source is the same as open standards. Open source simply means that code is available for review and modification, and makes no promises about portability or compatibility with other systems.

Making an IT decision today shouldn’t preclude you from making a different choice tomorrow. For this reason it is important to choose solutions that offer flexibility, lower TCO and give you the freedom to seamlessly move or port workflows from one environment to another. For many, this has meant working with vendors, like DXC and Oracle, that offer choice, lower costs and flexibility by investing in and supporting open source technologies.

What’s Needed Is A Pragmatic Approach

Organizations today need to take a pragmatic approach to their software decisions — blending proprietary solutions with relevant open source solutions that support their applications, lower costs and bring the best outcomes. They need to look beyond the perceived freebie and look towards using solutions that take and blend all of the benefits of open source and proprietary together.

This blog first appeared on DXC Technology Blog.

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Mike Revitt

Author: Mike Revitt

Mike Revitt is the global head of Managed Platform as a Service at DXC Technology, with an emphasis on our Oracle partnership. Mike ensures successful deployments of enterprise solutions, drawing on his nearly 30 years of IT experience. Under Mike’s leadership, customers benefit from flexible, scalable, hybrid cloud solutions that address their business challenges and meet their own customers’ demands.