Keeping up with the open sources

Read time 9min 50sec
Monique Hart, VMware.
Monique Hart, VMware.

What is it about open source that makes it such an efficient enterprise workhorse? What’s making it rise and shine above other solutions and platforms? According to Forrester, the open source opportunity has been seized by more than 50% of Fortune 500 companies and they’re using it for their critical workloads and to push innovation and business success. This open source trend is reflected in research undertaken by Gartner, which found more than 95% of IT companies use it for their mission-critical workloads, with another 70% of companies expected to increase their open source spend through to 2025.

But what is it about open source that adds so much flavour to the enterprise? That makes it an invaluable asset for IT workloads and business architecture? A report by McKinsey in 2020 found that it was open source adoption that differentiated high-growth, successful companies, and that open source investment had almost three times more impact on innovation. It reinforced this view in 2021, unpacking how open source has become an essential and vital resource for companies looking to leverage tech to achieve more at cost. Combined with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and serverless architecture, open source has the potential to create a ‘trifecta of technology approaches’ that provide the enterprise with a ‘formidable arsenal’.

Governance and skills

But precisely how formidable is this arsenal? Well, the Forrester report points out that with open source, companies open up several business benefits. The first ingredient is the ability to reduce client concerns around the costs and implications of proprietary software. With open source, customers are assured of improved access and speed, as well as ongoing community support and engagement that delivers value on both sides of the development fence. Open source software has also been found to reduce capital requirements, lower costs and improve development team engagement and growth. This allows for improved solutions and toolkits, and for continued transformation of customer experiences. As pointed out by Eric S. Raymond in his piece `The Cathedral and the Bazaar’, good software starts by ‘scratching a developer’s personal itch’. Letting the teams go forth and innovate is a sure-fire way for the business to cook up several recipes for long-term success.

But inasmuch that open source has a nice track record in cost savings, which aligns nicely with the fact that companies want lower costs, it’s important to balance the perception that these are guaranteed to be found in the warm embrace of open source. This is not a given. True value from open source requires governance and skills. Costs can be cut, but with the same meticulous approaches to development and capability as with proprietary platforms. However, open source does offer the business freedom, flexibility and agility. With the right teams, skills, approaches and governance, the enterprise can whip code together to create a glorious open source paella of performance. Just add open sauce.

Q&A: Adding that all-important sauce to the open source recipe

Brainstorm: What is the most significant issue or trend that will affect open source in the next two years?

Sarthak Rohal, VP: IT services, AlphaCodes: Web, mobile, and cloud solutions are increasingly built on open source infrastructure. Even some data and analytics solutions are only available in open source. Future architectures are highly likely to be based on open source.

Mandla Mbonambi, CEO, Africonology Solutions: We’re already seeing an increase in companies adopting open source tools as part of their full stack of solutions and this will continue. Complimenting this growth is the wider availability of ‘off-the-shelf’ tools and OEMs are also starting to create channels or APIs that connect well with open source tools.

Monique Hart, senior systems engineer, VMware SSA: There’s a massive movement towards DevSecOps within DevOps teams relying on open source, especially as DevOps has become a considerable driving force in many companies. The capability to deliver software more rapidly to market requires the collaboration of developers (Dev) and operations (Ops) teams to build a more nimble deployment framework.

Anthony N. Njoroge, product manager, NetApp, Sub-Saharan Africa: Cloud adoption will be a significant trend to watch. Part of this will result in the need to make organisational systems and services more agile. To this end, companies will start embracing micro-services such as Kubernetes and Docker at a larger scale to echo a shift towards open source adoption within enterprises.

Brainstorm: Why are organisations adopting open source for mission-critical workloads?

Gavin McDougall, senior solution architect, Red Hat: Open source software is inherently more secure, reliable and stable. This is due to the fact that open source software is developed in the public domain for all to see, inspect, use, secure and contribute to.

Mandla Mbonambi, Africonology Solutions: Some of the key reasons are that it's free, flexible, and allows for code-sharing. It also allows for using different development languages, which adds to its flexibility. That said, it does require the skill to integrate and align it to existing technologies and processes.

Benjamin Coetzer, director, Routed: Open source software allows organisations to avoid vendor lock-in. The last thing anyone wants is to rely solely on a single entity for any mission-critical components. Intrinsically, it’s also security-conscious, as anyone has access to review the code base. This leads to a virtuous feedback loop where the code base can be iteratively hardened and improved by community feedback.

Muggie van Staden, CEO, Obsidian Systems: It’s not tough to leverage the potential of open source. The model makes it simple for anyone to adopt as open source is built to play nicely with everyone, at a minimal cost.

Brainstorm: What would be the first step towards leveraging open source potential in the business?

Gavin McDougall, Red Hat: Organisations that adopt open source as part of their business strategy also experience an evolution within their people, culture and processes, which ultimately leads to improved performance and accelerated innovation.

Sarthak Rohal, AlphaCodes: The move to an OSS must be carefully planned, a thorough evaluation conducted and the right support put in place to ensure organisations maintain high availability, reliability, and scalability. Some essential steps are to set up an open source programme office, revise software distribution practices, develop skills and recruiting expertise, and integrate open source in internal IT governance.

Monique Hart, VMware SSA: When embarking on an open-source journey for your business, it’s important to develop a proper business plan and strategy on how it will be incorporated into your organisation with a smooth adoption process. This helps you to maximise the benefits your organisation gets from the open-source adoption.

Drikus van de Walt, cloud engineer, Synthesis Software: I would suggest if a business really wanted to embrace the beauty of open source, give your developers some time and freedom to contribute to their favourite open source projects. For example, clear out two hours on a Friday afternoon, call it ‘Open time for Open Source’ (in the spirit of open source, you can have that name for free) and allow your developers to explore, contribute and enjoy the open-source landscape.

Open source transformation

Bayport Financial Services takes on open source route to digitise customer service.

Bayport Financial Services needed fast and stable service delivery for its Africa operations, and it needed it yesterday. It also had to ensure that this service delivery was cost-effective and capable of delivering to customers across different platforms and geographies. The company was facing an immense challenge in refining architecture and operations across South Africa and Africa and was struggling to create a highly available and scalable hybrid environment that could ensure seamless service delivery on a variable and mercurial continent. For Wayne Meintjies, DevOps manager, Bayport Financial Services, the issues had to be resolved using a leaner and more automated system that allowed the team to get to market faster and more effectively.

“We needed technology that would help us to solve these issues easily, and within tight cost constraints,” he says. “We needed tech that would help us achieve a more optimised IT environment that was stable and efficient. To do so, we opted into using Red Hat’s Ansible automation platform as it integrated with our current pipelines, and we then used Red Hat OpenShift for deploying microservices. These solutions were the right fit for us as they not only gave us access to the Red Hat toolsets and training, but put us in a position where we could create a stable environment quickly.”

One of the key drivers of open source adoption in the enterprise is its capability to deliver with speed and agility.

The company chose open source because it allowed the team to implement downstream at speed, and as part of its existing platform, without being pressured into a proof of concept with heavy timelines. The company was already using several other open source solutions, so it made sense to stay on this runway.

“We chose open source credentials because of the global open source community and culture,” says Meintjies. “This investment has meant that we can remain a part of how the product grows and develops with absolute transparency.”

The first Red Hat solution implemented at Bayport focused on updating and translating the company’s existing virtualisation platform. It had become weighty and expensive and was not quite meeting the functionality requirements of the company, demanding more money spent for more functionality. Bayport moved to the Red Hat virtualisation platform that charged a fee for all functions and this has subsequently delivered measurable cost savings and performance improvements. The solution’s success resulted in the company moving deeper into open source, shifting to Ansible to automate nitty gritty workloads, taking on the stuff that admins don’t like to do.

New tools and projects

“Bayport had a skills shortage so the move to Ansible allowed the technology team to use automation to free up staff to get involved in more important projects,” says Haaike van der Merwe, senior solutions architect, Red Hat Sub Saharan Africa. “They then started playing with the community version of OpenShift and found that it was delivering the right value to the business, so we worked together with them to improve this value until they rolled out the enterprise version to the rest of the company.”

Bayport started with the community-level open source solutions to establish value before moving to the enterprise version, and continues to investigate open source options for additional projects that sit in the pipeline.

“We try to keep an eye on new tools and projects,” says Meintjies. “We’re very interested to see how our open source systems and investments will evolve into the future, especially now that we’ve achieved the stability, cost-savings and optimisation we wanted.”

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