Open source misconceptions fading

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South Africa may be up to five years behind the rest of the world in terms of vendor-supported open source software adoption, but the old misconceptions are falling away and adoption is picking up.

This is according to Jan-Jan van der Vyver, MD of Linux Warehouse, who says certain sectors are leading the way in terms of increasing adoption, such as telecommunications and certain technologically advanced banks, such as FNB. The public sector, which has long had an open source policy, has been slow in meeting its own adoption targets, but is now taking steps to remedy this.

Van der Vyver says more education is needed in SA to enhance understanding of the benefits of vendor-supported open source software. "If South African business is to be competitive in the global market, it needs to compete on price point, functionality and flexibility," he points out. "The use of vendor-supported open source software enables this."

Gartner predicted that 90% of people worldwide would use open source software by 2012, a prediction that Van der Vyver says has proved to be conservative. "Over 60% of the Internet servers run on open source; then there's Android, Apple Macs and iPhones, [which] use an open source kernel, and most embedded devices run on Linux. Most people use open source software every day, many of us without realising it."

Van der Vyver says open source software offers numerous benefits, in addition to its reduced cost. "With vendor-supported open source software, the model is geared towards support. A local partner sets it up and supports it, and an international vendor backs it. With proprietary software, you buy the right to use the software, but nobody fixes it for you - nobody cares. Some proprietary software vendors are delivering more, such as bringing out service packs, but they may leave zero day exploits for months. In contrast, fixing bugs is a core focus of vendor-supported software, and thus bugs are being fixed all the time."

In addition, with proprietary software in a stack for a data centre, says Van der Vyver, businesses feel pressured to buy all the components from the same vendor to increase the chances that they will function well together.

"With vendor-supported open source software, and its focus on open standards, the pieces work together better, and you can get best-of-breed software from a range of vendors, with those vendors resolving any bugs. The result is lower-risk software at a better price."

Depending on the subscription model, enterprises opting for vendor-supported open source software may opt for subscription on a one-, three- or five-year plan, and choose the level of support needed.

"They buy a plan with varying time to resolution. Alacrity of response is something you pay for, and which model is selected depends on how business-critical the systems are," he says.

Van der Vyver notes: "We've found that, in SA, there are companies that think if they want an open source solution, they just need a local partner, without big vendor backing. Often, this is good enough, but for low probability, high-impact events, this is a risky business strategy. And even if the local partner fixes a bug, it seldom gets committed upstream, so that upgrading becomes a nightmare for the end-client. The vendor-supported open source model delivers the lowest-risk option to the end-client."

To help boost understanding of the benefits and options in vendor-supported open source software, particularly for virtual data centre implementations, Linux Warehouse, in partnership with ITWeb, will host an executive forum on the subject at Southern Sun Montecasino, on 14 November. For more information about this event, click here.

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