Open source defies odds
Adopting open source software (OSS) is not risky. In fact, not adopting it is a much bigger risk.
These are the words of Rob Lith, business development director at Connection Telecom, who adds that adopting an open approach to software engineering has become more popular.
"In today's operating system market, for example, Android leads with 42% share, and Apple is second with 24%," he says, pointing out that Android is OSS, and Apple's OS X has an integrated version of FreeBSD, an OSS operating system.
ITWeb's recent Open Source Survey found that OSS use is growing. Almost half (45.99%) of survey respondents rated vendor-supported open source software the same as proprietary software, while 31.55% rated open source software better and 7.49% rated it worse.
"While South Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of vendor-supported open source software adoption, adoption is growing fast. Our figures show an average year-on-year growth in excess of 50% over the last three years for the vendor channels we represent," says Shannon Moodley, GM of Linux Warehouse, sponsor of the Open Source Survey.
According to Lith, things looked very different in PC-dominated 2000, with Microsoft's share of the market at 97%. Today, its share is 20%. "The OSS trend is evident at the infrastructure and solution layers too. According to an article by Fortune, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies rely in some way on the Linux operating system - the most famous flag bearer for OSS."
He adds that OSS has also infiltrated the newest bastion of computing, namely cloud computing, with 76% of cloud-based organisations using Linux servers, according to the Linux Foundation.
"But this changing of the guard has been lost on some. A recent request for proposals in the local telecoms industry declined a solution that contained an OSS component as being 'too risky'. While not very widespread, this view is not an isolated occurrence, and it suggests that anti-OSS attitudes, so manifest at the turn of the century, have lingered in certain circles."
He believes OSS has become "quietly pervasive". Linux came to be supported by most enterprise vendors, including IBM, HP and Dell, in the late 90s.
"Since then, most telecoms switching equipment migrated to Linux in the mid-2000s. Between 2007 and 2010, most major stock exchanges did too. Most new TVs, stereos, Internet routers, Kindles and Cadillacs are powered by Linux."
The only explanation for the lack of awareness of this quiet riot - of which every IT department in the world must surely be cognisant - is that OSS long ago ceased to be the headline topic it was at the millennium, he posits.
Lith points out that this may have less to do with a new-found quiet confidence among OSS vendors than with the silence of "proprietary" software vendor Microsoft on the topic, after it led a fierce public relations battle against OSS in the early 2000s.
"And why did it stop? The simple truth is that Microsoft has become one of the top 20 corporate contributors to Linux, according to the Linux Foundation. Its objective with this is to ensure that its products work well with Linux - which is perhaps the ultimate endorsement of just how ubiquitous Linux and OSS have become.
"With the race effectively won, does that change your perspective on OSS? If not, consider where we would be if OSS was suddenly recalled like a wayward president or defective mobile battery. There would be no Samsung Smart TVs, no Polycom conferencing units, no IP phones, no routers (or Internet), no hosting companies and no smartphones."