keeping up with open source web technologies

Due to its organic nature, the world of open source software (OSS) is in constant flux, which makes it difficult to keep tabs on. Look how far we’ve come in the past 50 years. Today you can choose between proprietary software and OSS. You now have access to free software and annual subscription licences, changing the way that we acquire and consume software. How you utilise it is up to you as well. You might choose to install on premises, deploy to the cloud or employ a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. As the consumer, you are afforded multiple combinations to meet individual needs and open source is one of the driving forces behind this change.
It has been predicted that this adoption of open source technology will play a big part in revolutionising the application world. Historically consumers had a very limited choice when it came to buying proprietary software, you bought a licence. Open source is driving change in this model with increased flexibility and innovation providing more options in the way we buy software.
One of the myths about OSS is that IT organisations adopt it because it’s free. As nearly everyone knows, open source software is a lower cost alternative to proprietary software but in reality, there are wider reason companies are opting for OSS over proprietary solutions.
Clearly, the favourable price tag is a factor in decision making and an important driver but it is not the key advantage to open source. The fact that it is flexible, innovative and reliable are key motivators in any company’s decision to choose open source solutions. IT organisations are increasingly valuing the fact that they can adopt open source technologies on their own terms, at their own pace and within their most mission-critical environments. They can customise the software and choose a pricing model that’s much more flexible than what they would have achieved with proprietary software.
Because of this, much of the talk about enterprise OSS centres around its potential, with upbeat projections offered for the next year, the next five years, and so forth. Forecasting an upsurge in open source adoption neglects one key fact – open source is already well-established and firmly here to stay. According to a recent Gartner study, more than a half of organisations surveyed have already adopted OSS solutions as part of their IT strategy.
Open source has been one of the most significant cultural developments in IT and beyond over the last two decades, and has shown that individuals, working together over the Internet, can create products that rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations. It has also shown how companies can become more innovative, more nimble and more cost-effective by building on the efforts of community work. If you are an open source advocate, you should be excited. 
Steven Johnson, author of the seminal book Interface Culture, said it best in his NY Times article about the power of collaboration in spurring innovation. Johnson references how ubiquitous OSS has become in every aspect of our lives, and asks us to imagine what would happen — cue the announcer voice — in a world without open source. He paints a stunning picture:
For starters, the Internet and the Web would instantly evaporate. Every Android smartphone, every iPad, iPhone and Mac would go dark. A massive section of our energy infrastructure would cease to function. The global stock markets would go offline for weeks, if not longer. Planes would drop out of the sky. It would be an event on the scale of a world war or a pandemic.
When you think about software in this way it is thought-provoking, to say the least. A dramatic image of the significance of OSS in our everyday lives. IT professionals and software developers will be well aware of this and are immersed in it day-by-day. For the rest of the world, OSS has become deeply embedded in daily life without anyone even realising.
So are we on the cusp of even greater breakthroughs with, and expansion of OSS? Is it really becoming the glue holding everything together? Those of us in the software industry would argue that we’re pretty close and point to a few areas where OSS has made inroads in everyday life and business, reiterating Marc Andreessen’s canonical point that “software is eating the world.”
  • Mobile – Whether you’ve got an iPhone or one of the many Android-powered smartphones or tablets, you’re carrying OSS in your pocket. According to Strategy Analytics android has recently captured as much as 88% of the global mobile phone market. As most of us know, Android is, of course, open source. What many consumers don’t realise is how much OSS is also in Apple’s iOS, a closed-source operating system which relies on many OSS components (if you’re interested, check the legal notices in your iPhone for the list of all the OSS components in iOS).

According to mobile industry group GSMA, half the world’s population uses mobile phones. Your company is going mobile, one device at a time. This can create conflict as ‘shadow’ IT sneaks into the IT stronghold. Empower IT to make BYOD a priority service to employees; empower employees by supporting all platforms. The good news is much of the infrastructure needed to support mobility is based on open source, which is easier to integrate – and more interesting for IT groups who want to work with cutting edge technologies.

  • Financial services – Increasingly, we consumers are demanding mobile interaction with our banks and financial services providers. We’re checking our balances on the run, getting account status alerts, tracking stocks and using our phones to pay for goods and services. Most of the apps in development for mobile platforms are being developed using OSS.
  • Automotive – Software is everywhere in your car; in fact, today’s premium-class cars host more than 100m lines of software code, much of it open source. GPS systems and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems are where most OSS can be found, but increasingly (according to studies from BearingPoint GMBH and the GENIVI Alliance), open source is making its way into other subsystems in cars, too.

If you’re a supplier in the new ecosystem forming around in-vehicle infotainment, join GENIVI. If you’re not, or if you’re a consumer, enjoy the benefits of OSS and what it brings to your driving experience as your car’s infotainment and navigation systems connect with the broader Internet. Today 11 percent of the world’s cars are connected; the numbers will only increase.

Beyond how much we rely on OSS as consumers, open source has made similar headway in the business world, what many call “the enterprise.” OSS use started as a quiet movement of grassroots collaboration among the earliest OSS adopters but has now become a vital resource for enterprise IT developers in virtually every industry, particularly in electronics, automotive, software, financial and IT services, media, communications, energy and government. IDC reports that open source makes up 30 percent or more of the code at major G2000 organisations, and some best practices companies actually use up to 80 percent. Thanks to open source, these industries are developing faster, more innovative software for less money.
How does it work? Peer collaboration is at the root of open source, which is developed by loosely-knit communities of developers worldwide. It’s driving innovation across industries, markets and geographies. For a recent example, check out the Lodestone Foundation, an open source community forming around capital markets. Harness OSS resources, and you’re more than halfway to where you want to go.
For a discussion about how open source web technology and the skills behind it are transforming the technology sector, and how you as a business can benefit from it, contact Amir Malik, Manager at Michael Page Technology.
Amir Malik
T: 0207 269 6239