Businesses now look at open source very differently. A few years ago it was something about free software and low cost. Now its taking a much more serious shape and businesses are evaluating it as one of the options while buying IT. Generally speaking the element of source code being available is really not why businesses are attracted to it. Most businesses lack the skills to download the code and modify it for their own use (though the number of businesses that have now capability is steadily increasing !! thanks to the ease of software development today !!!). Therefore for any business open source is more about Choice.
Choice because now the options before the businesses are not limited to some proprietary vendor options. Choice also because among the proprietary vendors some of them have commercial open source software. Some choices are created also because business solutions are now freely available. WordPress blog to start a web site like this is an excellent example of how something as free can get your journalist tendencies flowing so smoothly.
Having said that Vendors are continually defining what they want Open source to deliver. Vendors are reacting to this by using open source to create new choices. Typically these can be categorised as:
- Open Source in a On Demand SaaS (Software as a service) or even aaS (as a Service models)
- Open Source in On Premise SaaS model.
- Open Source integrated in custom software to build platforms that give proprietary technologies used for development a run for money.
- Open Source in enterprise software including linux, virtualisation, and all the way up to the stack in terms of Business Intelligence and Content Management Systems.
- Open Source solutions in verticals that are OSS aligned such as Public Sector
- Open Source in database and even services such as Zoho (http://www.zoho.com) that allow users to create database applications quickly on demand.
- Open Source in Cloud
Clearly the choices are slowly being created and giving a plethora of options to any business of any size. However the legacy of the past and use of enterprise software in licensing terms is yet to be washed away. Most IT managers today making the decisions to buy IT are still aware of only the perpetual licensing models so unconsciously are restricting the new choices to be adopted through open source.
It is often said that only aggressive IT adopters today look at open source as a choice while most risk averse businesses do not use the Open source options due to its inconsistent maturity. However the lessons for these organisations are on the wall.
- Look for vendors that are cleverly inventing new things with Open Source. Google is a great example of the world’s greatest open source case study.
- Look for vendors that simplify open source for you. Forget the technical pitch of what open source technologies and frameworks they know about and can customize. Ask them what they have done with it and what new additions over and above the default community versions they have created. In summary what have they contributed back?
- Look for services that have been built purely on Open source and hide the complexity of underlying software. This shows the wonderful innovation that is hidden behind the offering. If a vendor has that degree of engineering behind them then surely they will be a trustworthy partner solving your complex problems.
Where is it all going?
My take is that the open source way of implementing choices is going where all natural choice creating phenomenon have moved in history. For example democracy is all about choices and now the ultimate expression of how nation state should speak in multiple voices catering to each actor within a state.
In a similar way, software democracy is on play. The level playing field is being levelled again. In this process it is creating new models and new vendors and new businesses.
One thing is clear that the future of IT to businesses through the open source way of thinking is very exciting indeed.