Why digital transformation needs open source

By Ilva Pieterse, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 25 Oct 2016

As if there wasn't already ample reason for businesses to switch to open source, Forrester analysts Paul Miller and Lauren E Nelson released a report in April 2016, entitled Open Source Powers Enterprise Digital Transformation - CIOs Need To Embrace Open Source Software To Drive Change, which further drives the point.

Herewith some of the key points from the report:

Open source has moved from bedroom to boardroom
Open source is no longer limited to academics and hobbyists. Enterprises across the globe now look to open source software to support mission-critical, customer-facing workloads. According to Forrester's most recent survey of software decision-makers, 41% identify increasing their use of open source as a high or critical priority for 2016. This comes from a base of 1 402 global infrastructure technology decision-makers whose firms prioritise servers and the datacentre and deploy x86 servers.

Established enterprise software players invest heavily in open source, as newer companies - like Hortonworks and Red Hat - attract significant customers to their open source-powered solutions. The increasing demand for agile, customer-obsessed technology drives interest in open source among large organisations and their technology partners. It's no longer acceptable to take the traditional, cautious approach to technology adoption. Fast adoption often means high levels of vendor lockin and future limitations on change. As open source options evolve, enterprises see them as a more open and flexible path forward. Many open source software projects have reached a scale and maturity that make them worthy of evaluation alongside more traditional proprietary solutions.

Open source must be part of your business technology strategy
Few organisations are in a position to move entirely to an open source technology stack, but open source tools, technologies and approaches play an increasingly important role in most areas of technology development. An organisation that does not fully consider open source options alongside the proprietary offerings they have traditionally procured is missing out on sound technologies, access to vibrant communities, and the opportunity to tap innovative new ways of working. Today, failure to fully consider open source options is unwise. Within a few short years, it will be unforgivably negligent.

Why switching to open source is important over the next coming years:

1. Open source will underpin the applications upon which your customers depend. Every application will not be an open source application, and there is still plenty of life in proprietary software and the purveyors of proprietary services. But the trends we see today will only continue to accelerate, as the developers of applications tap existing knowledge, practices and software components to bootstrap the differentiating features and functions they wish to build.

More than ever, open source code and components will lie at the heart of the applications upon which you and your customers depend. Failure to experiment with open source today, and failure to learn how best to benefit from open source today, will put you and your organisation at a significant disadvantage in the coming years.

2. Open source communities will foster standards and peer-to-peer collaboration. Today's SDOs need the people and willing adopters from open source projects to seal their proposals into actual standards. This will continue,99 with the power increasingly shifting toward the open source communities. Similarly, open source groups have established peer-to-peer resources to facilitate collaboration cross-industry through sites like GitHub and user committee meetups led by the likes of the OpenStack and Cloud Foundry foundations. Providing this same sort of platform specifically targeted at tech leaders has traditionally been reserved for vendor-organised gatherings and SDO-led user groups. Looking forward, open source communities will extend their peer-to-peer communities to target tech leaders. Communities like these will help generate ideas from other industries, driving customer experience and organisational changes.

3. Technology is only part of the open source story. Again and again, we encounter evidence that the code is only one small part of the value open source brings to its enterprise adopters.

CIOs continue to grapple with the challenge of transforming their technology management organisation to drive real growth across an increasingly customer-obsessed business. The skills, ways of working, and ideas that open source deployments require of their developers go a long way toward transforming that workforce to meet the new demands of the business.

Those demands show no sign of diminishing. As organisations continue their rush to embrace the realities of the age of the customer, a technology management organisation that has learned the lessons open source can teach will be well placed to meet new business demands. More importantly, it will also be well placed to start playing a far more proactive role in driving that age of the customer agenda throughout the business.

Source: Forrester

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