Open source drives digital transformation

By Ilva Pieterse
Johannesburg, 25 Oct 2016
Matthew Lee, SUSE.
Matthew Lee, SUSE.

Digital transformation has become synonymous with the various technologies driving it forward. These include mobile, social, sensor technologies, big data and the cloud. But it seems open source might be having just as big an influence as the rest.

Some experts even believe the digital transformation revolution is being fuelled by open source. Since open source has reduced the cost of creating and developing the new digital platforms that drive transformation, and the work is being done collaboratively through code and infrastructure platform sharing, the evolution of technology has bred whole new business models and platforms, most of which are dominating the world's economy.

When the leaders in digital platforms by market value are considered, including Google, Amazon, Facebook and even Apple, then it becomes clear how much is owed to open source. Even Microsoft is finally embracing it.

Matthew Lee, regional manager of SUSE, says the company has been seeing tremendous growth year on year, and this is true for the industry in general. He adds that as much as half of some companies' IT departments are made up of open source-skilled employees - another sign of how important it is in the digital transformation of businesses today.

"Because situations are hyperconverged and heterogeneous in organisations, open standards are making digital transformation easier. Proprietary can only help one area in business at a time, and due to the rate of change that needs to happen across all areas in business, open source is the choice that makes most sense," he says. "Proprietary has become too restrictive in today's business landscape."

He states that 80% of organisations are saying that open source software is critical to their private and public cloud strategies, and 60% feel open source software gives them a competitive edge.

LSD's MD Sven Lesicnik says the increasing adoption of open source platforms is testament to the fact that the old ways of delivering digital experiences are being replaced by newer, more agile solutions. "Outperforming proprietary packages on quality, cost, customisation and security, open source is slowly taking over the world," he says.

He points out how the Internet of Things, big data, devOps and cloud computing are changing how business is done, and demanding more agile and secure solutions. "Open source has solidified its position as the platform best able to deliver these types of solutions as a result of the fact that an entire community can innovate faster than any one vendor," he says. "Enterprise open source has proven its ability to deliver the freedom to enable integration and innovation, and, as a result, is growing as a mainstream enterprise software solution."

Proprietary has become too restrictive in today's business landscape.

Matthew Lee, SUSE

Furthermore, according to Michael Wallis, Platinum Seed's front end developer, open source allows companies to not only derive benefit from their own IT employees, but from the whole open source community as well.

The collaboration factor is a big one, he says. "Because you end up with more eyes on it, flaws are more easily spotted and dealt with quicker. Wallis adds that the skills pool is wider and people can use these skills instead of needing to hire specialists.

Other OS plus points

Open source doesn't just help organisations - it can boost NGOs and the country's economy at large, says Wallis.

At a recent Wordpress Hackathon event in Cape Town, teams of attendees were each allocated an NGO, and by the end of the day, they had created a website for quite a few of them.

"This is how easy it is to contribute through open source - all it takes it a bit of time and skills and the country can be boosted in significant ways. It doesn't take large financial investments, so there is no need to wait for funds to be raised," he says.

Open source makes sense in today's technological landscape.

Michael Wallis, Platinum Seed

Furthermore, because the code is freely available on the internet, it can be easily studied by anyone. This is a great way to increase skills in a country like South Africa, which is often burdened by a lack of necessary skills and education issues, says Wallis.

"Open source makes sense in today's technological landscape because it can move rapidly and adapt to changes in technology as they arise," he says. "And, more importantly, due to its flexible nature, we can take any open source software being developed overseas and change it to suit local needs."

There really shouldn't be an argument between open source and proprietary anymore these days, says Lee. "The benefits of open source in our rapidly changing and digitally transforming business world means choosing open source should be a given."

Open source powers enterprise digital transformation
By Forrester

A recent paper published by Forrester addresses the need for CIOs to embrace open source software as a means to drive change.

Four reasons why you should be taking open source seriously:

1. Technology giants collaborate on open source projects.

The days in which open source software projects start, grow and reach widespread adoption driven by individual developers are long gone. Now, paid employees from tech giants make most of the code contributions, within the rules and procedures laid down by the foundations - the Apache Software Foundation, the Linux Foundation, the OpenStack Foundation, and others - that govern these projects.

2. Tech innovators stand on the shoulders of open source giants.

Open source is the engine behind new tech innovation. Rather than reinventing the wheel, developers leverage open source tools like Chef, Nagios or Puppet. Instead of unnecessarily recreating basic functionality, project teams quickly get to devote time, money and attention to differentiating on top of a robust open source base.

3. Even risk-averse governments push open source-friendly policies.

Keen to reduce their dependence on expensive vendors and encourage faster and more open development of new services, governments around the world have been surprisingly quick to craft policies that favour open source solutions.

4. Fortune 50s aren't shying away from open source either.

Enterprise developers report extensive use of open source tooling in multiple tech arenas. But organisation-wide open source adoption is also increasingly common. You'd be hard pressed to find any company in the Fortune 50 that isn't making extensive use of Linux.

This article was first published in the October 2016 edition of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine. To read more, go to the Brainstorm website.