Reduce ongoing costs, increase flexibility with open source software
In an age where computers have become not a luxury or even a necessity, but an integral part of modern business, software has become the cornerstone of commerce. However, proprietary software can eat into organisations' ICT budgets, with a hefty purchase price and often annual licensing fees that can further drain resources.
In addition to this, because of the prevalence of technology within organisations, there are often many third party tools. Integrating these with proprietary software can cause issues to crop up within all of the tools, not to mention the costs associated with application integration.
Vendor lock-in has become a common scenario with proprietary tools, with modular versions of software only working correctly in homogenous environments - in other words, in environments where only applications of the same brand can co-exist.
"These scenarios are only exacerbated in the currently challenging economic climate by shrinking budgets, which can have a significant impact on organisations, hindering their ability to adopt new technology to increase efficiency and output," says Gerrit-Jan Albers, Service Delivery Manager at RDB Consulting. "This is the space in which open source software plays, offering several significant benefits to organisations faced with the multiple challenges posed by proprietary applications."
Open source software delivers these benefits without breaking the bank or dramatically denting organisations' IT budgets, as no proprietary code is required to manipulate and modify the software, so it can be easily integrated into multiple-party environments.
"On top of this there are generally no licence fees, so budget can be focused on getting top level support, and the huge international community of open source users and developers are more than happy to share advice and experiences, allowing businesses to leverage the 'best practice' information this community supplies," says Etienne Myburgh, System Engineer at RDB Consulting.
Open source software came into being in the early 1980s, and the freedom it gives developers ensures it remains popular even today, as anyone can take the code and manipulate it to deliver new functionality, better integration and so on. However, uptake of open source software in the business world has been slow, and is only recently beginning to gain traction and momentum for a number of reasons.
"One of the major concerns businesses have had with open source tools is a lack of reliability. Because anyone can effectively edit and modify the code, there has been a perception that open source software is not as effective as its proprietary counterparts. The usability of the software has also been a concern, as well as the support available and the ongoing development of these tools," explains Albers.
"However, these perceptions have proven to be false over the years as the number of developers who are available to service and support open source software has grown exponentially, and the fact that open source tools are just as reliable as licensed applications is becoming far more widely understood," he says.
In fact, the demand for open source applications is increasing daily in the software market, which is in turn driving developers to create more of these types of tools. There has been a dramatic increase in investment into open source as more and more businesses consider a migration, and year-on-year there is an increase in the number of businesses enquiring about open source and migrations to this type of software.
This move is being driven in large part by cost factors, as using open source software frees up organisational budgets for better quality software and superior support. This is helped along based on the quality, reliability and performance of today's open source applications.
"Modern businesses demand freely available, flexible and - above all - customisable tools that can be altered to meet the specific needs of individuals and companies to deliver maximum benefit, and open source software can deliver all of this, fuelling an ever increasing move onto open source platforms and away from locked-in, proprietary solutions," says Myburgh.
Open source software delivers a wide variety of benefits, but from the perspective of business there are three that stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Firstly, the software is extremely flexible and scalable and can be improved and redistributed within the software community so that everyone can benefit from it. Secondly, this community aspect enables individuals or companies using open source software to benefit from the advice and support of a large global network of users and developers.
Finally, the licences, documentation and support costs are very low, with no obligation to subscribe to annual licensing, which means that time to ROI is far shorter.
When it comes to implementing open source solutions, businesses can benefit substantially from partnering with an experienced and skilled outsource company that can deliver implementations and support along with competitive prices and better quality software tools.
"Outsourcers have a significant role to play in making open source the software platform of choice. Outsourcing and consulting companies should introduce open source software to clients and have a product offering that involves these types of solutions, highlighting the benefits when these products are proposed to clients," says Jaroslav Cerny, CEO of RDB Consulting.
On top of this, outsourced providers should also offer training to clients on software tools and open source operating system administration, and ensure that developers and administrators are skilled and certified on open source tools in much the same fashion that licensed software requires.
In this way, the misperceptions around the quality of available support will be addressed, which will in turn create greater confidence in the open source platform as a whole.
"Open source is here to stay as it delivers multiple benefits over licensed software, but it is up to the developers and those who support these software products to address existing perceptions and deliver quality service to rival the licensed giants, in order to make open source the platform of choice for businesses looking to implement great software," Cerny concludes.