Not long ago, the words “open source software” made people run. Why on earth would you go online, download a code and use it as a basis for all of your IT applications?! Today, things look slightly different. Open source is no longer considered the underdog, and seems to gain ground against proprietary software products. I even dare to go one step further, and state that it has become the ultimate companion on your road to digital transformation. In this blog, I’m not going to give you the answer why. I’m going to give you four.
“You might say that the biggest downside of open source is more easily covered than the most important downside of proprietary software, which is that it isn’t open source”
What do proprietary and open source software mean?
The difference between proprietary and open source software lies in ownership. Whereas proprietary software belongs to an organization, open source codes are online available, and free to download by anyone with half a brain. And while proprietary software can only be edited by the owner, open source software modules can be adjusted by any developer. Both types come with pros and cons, as proprietary software is more established but less flexible, and open source is highly flexible but without quality guarantees. At the same time (and this is not to brag), the rise of software partners like us has solved this problem by offering support during the building, implementing and monitoring of open source software products. So you might say that the biggest downside of open source is more easily covered than the most important downside of proprietary software, which is that it isn’t open source.
Reason 1. Freedom (vendor-wise)
Having said this, open source software wasn’t developed to beat proprietary software, but to help you become successful company. I like to believe companies such as WSO2 were created by small communities of (slightly nerdy) developers that wanted to release growing businesses from the shackles of proprietary contracts. Even if I’m wrong about the nerdiness and philanthropic motives, it’s exactly what they did. Since open source software isn’t owned by anyone, there’s no need to sign a binding contract that locks you in from a financial point of view. There’s no license saying you’re stuck with the same product and vendor for the rest of the year, or two years, if you’re unlucky.You have the freedom to choose for another technology vendor or system integrator.
Reason 2. More freedom (technology-wise)
Open source products provide you with another form of freedom. As the code can be downloaded by your own developers, they can alter it and customize it until it fits your exact needs. Sure, when working with proprietary software, your provider can help you customize certain modules too, but this process will be based on their conditions and -not unimportant- their working hours. When downloading the code yourself, you can leave the job to your own people, that know your business requirements like no other. Second, as you don’t have to sign a binding contract, you can combine products from different vendors. Chances are that a combination of several software providers gets you exactly where you want to be, without settling for anything less than perfect. With open source, the world is your super market, and you control the grocery list.
Reason 3. The world is your IT department
I know I said that the world is your super market, but it’s your IT department too. When working with open source, you’re not restricted by the knowledge of your vendor’s IT professionals. Great developers can be found all around the world, meaning there’s always someone awake to fix your problems. Even more important, you can leave the hard work to others, as you easily borrow solutions built by fellow developers, even if you’ve never met them in real life. This usually results in better products that are bug-free and different than anything your competitors will ever build. Sure, your own developers are probably able to fix most of the issues, but they can never compete with the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of the rest of the world.
Reason 4. Stand on the shoulders of giants
Reason number 4 is without a doubt the most important one of all. As the word suggests, open source software is literally open, meaning you can connect it to all the applications you like, both inside and outside your company walls. This gives you the opportunity to build open API platforms, so the world can join in and help you optimize your products and services. The giants of this world have already done this (think about Uber and Tesla) and benefit from the endless brilliancy and innovativeness that other industries bring to the table. This is why Tesla can offer drivers route planners and weather forecasts and it is why Uber is able to team up with giants like Amazon. Standing on the shoulders of giants isn’t an act of laziness, it’s knowing how to make clever combinations that no one else has thought of before.
Do you work with open source software and how is it working out for you? Let me know by leaving a comment! If you still have some things to figure out, download our free white paper on Going Digital. Great ideas guaranteed.