Open source: What will your business build?

Businesses have adopted a complex pattern of technologies on a scale previously not possible thanks to both cloud and open source technologies, says Gregory Fullard, who heads up the Digital Platoon in EOH.


Johannesburg, 21 May 2018
Read time 6min 20sec

Twenty years ago the biggest business in technology was Infrastructure and the likes of Microsoft, Intel, IBM and Cisco were all competing for top spot and surging way ahead of any other business in the tech industry, says Gregory Fullard, who heads up the Digital Platoon in EOH.

Today these top spots have been eclipsed by software companies; Amazon, Airbnb, and Netflix to name a few. What is particularly exciting is that the average consumer wouldn't class these companies as being in the software industry. This is testament to how some organisations have realised the need to manage more big data and the benefits of building and contributing to open source, with the result of not just moving technology forwards but building whole businesses around it.

Just 15 years ago, open source software was far less popular than proprietary software, today open source is in use far more than we might imagine. According to the Future of Open Source Survey, around 78% of companies are currently using open source software for vital operations.

What's fuelling open source adoption within enterprises? Cost effectiveness, scalability, security, innovation, pace to market, and Fast Data.

Companies in every industry are battling to stay on top of the influx of raw data hitting the shores of their business. This exponential growth of Fast Data makes it difficult for businesses to accurately forecast their storage, network and computing needs.

By definition, big data scales across multiple worlds. Consequently, the magnitude of order when it comes to data analysis is virtually impossible to estimate. Where commercial models built around CPUs were typically used in the enterprise space, a fixed structure like the traditional CPU model just doesn't allow for dynamic scaling.

Fast Data has forced businesses to look for data centre solutions that can scale more effectively, that are agile and intelligent, and provide a more responsive infrastructure. Logically, this has led to the growth of cloud hosting environments and with that, the acceleration of the open source movement.

In 2015, the unrelenting growth of raw data led us to boundary less environments, such as when Wipro launched the Boundary Less Data Centre (BLDC). Powered by VMware, the BLDC was based on a software-defined data centre architecture to help drive business agility and scale. Although the Boundary Less Data Centre helped businesses accelerate their IT transformation, just three years later, we're in the Fast Data world and raw data is proliferating at a pace that was hard to predict.

Consequently, businesses have adopted highly complex pattern of technologies that run algorithms on a scale previously not possible thanks to both cloud and open source technologies. This integral relationship means that businesses can operate faster without a major concern for costs and there is no risk of vendor lock-in

Many predict that as organisations reposition for agility, consistency and scalability into the future, they will embrace open architecture to manage big data and the relationship between open source and Cloud technology will continue to strengthen.

As big data proliferates, the surge in open source adoption will continue to rise.

Following the introduction of the copyleft concept, the subsequent Apache 2 Licence meant that profit-driven businesses could sell the adapted open source software at a profit. At which point, many 'conventional' companies, including Microsoft and Oracle, saw the potential of open source from both a commercial and IP perspective.

As opposed to proprietary licences where companies needed to fund a licence to get access to an innovation, open source makes it possible for every enterprise to gain access to innovation much more quickly. Essentially, businesses can leverage open source to innovate.

For instance, Microsoft is now the biggest contributor to open source in the world, along with Facebook and Google. After realising its potential, Microsoft took its .Net stack to the open source environment, announced a partnership with Red Hat, and joined the Linux Foundation. It was 'all in'.

Additionally, Apache Kafka was originally the brainchild of LinkedIn. A messaging platform designed for internal use, it is now used by eight major insurance companies, several of the world's largest banks and has a total dev team of approximately 900. As LinkedIn refined the platform features, it realised the possibilities went further than the boundary walls of its own company.

Equally, Presto query engine was an in-house initiative of Facebook before it was released to the world and adopted by Netflix and Airbnb to handle back-end analytics.

Bharti Airtel currently uses a large number of open source technologies to improve efficiencies and uses open source across six of its major projects.

Recently, MakeMyTrip, an old hand at deploying a large number of open source technologies within its business, recently contributed back to the community when it launched DataShark, an advanced framework for security and network event analytics.

Git, often described as the centre of the open source universe, was originally written by Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, to enable distributed source control and is now the most popular host choice for open source projects.

Hadoop, Hortonworks and MongoDB are all examples of a similar approach to leveraging open source technologies and rebranding them for commercial benefit and maximum reach.

When software is not used, it has no value. When it is used by 1 million people, it immediately has a million times more value.

This is the fundamental principle of open source. More use means more value. When more organisations realise the benefits of building and contributing to open source, they will embrace open architecture and be able to work innovatively with increasing volumes of data.

The business environment today is, in many ways, more collaborative than in previous years. In many respects open source is proof of that collaboration results in innovation, every time. But the real sea-change was when Apache opened up its Licence 2 and traditional infrastructure companies got on board.

Flexible architectural solutions, such as cloud and open source, will help organisations manage more big data. But what is exciting about open source and Cloud technology is that being faster to market is not just about incremental changes. As LinkedIn, MakeMyTrip and Facebook have shown, your company's open source contribution may disrupt your industry and build an entire new revenue stream to generate profit for your business.

What will your business build?

Gregory Fullard

Gregory Fullard heads up the Digital Platoon in EOH, a team focused on breaking boundaries and building software that changes the world. Fullard describes himself as a developer, a BA, and 'various flavours of architect', who tries to make fluffy buzzwords practical in the real world of the South African IT industry.

Fullard led an exciting session at EOH Connect focusing on Open Source, DevOps and Drones. The EOH Connect event took place at the Sandton Convention Centre on Wednesday, 9 May 2018.

To find out more about the event, contact Yasmee.Kaleb@eoh.com

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