Value of open source

September 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Darrell Schrag and I had the opportunity to present the “Open by Design” topic at today’s North America Cloud Sales workshop. We were given the stock starting point slides and then made it into our own. It got me thinking about what is it with open source? When I was first introduced to open source ~15 years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. That is, my thinking was based on having done lots of software development in-house and I questioned how I could get value out of “freeware” with generally no support. That may not have been an accurate frame of reference back then, but it’s certainly not accurate today.

One of the key advantages of open source today is the volume of developers making valued contributions. Examples of this scale include 3300+ developers contributing to OpenStack and 2200+ developers contributing to Cloud Foundry. There’s no way any 1 company can expose this scale of developers to an asset. It’s also interesting to note that these contributors are generally very passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re contributing so they’re generally more engaged than a typical in-house application developer and this combination of scale and passion can’t be beat.

Another advantage is the speed and quality enabled by open source. Rather than requiring developers to create from scratch, they’re able to reuse or at least begin from a solid starting point to get their efforts rolling. The open source software has a community of developers fixing and enhancing it so the developer also has the added bonus of quality that’s pre-built into the open source software.

It’s worth noting that not all open source software is the same. I’ve found these advantages with the open source software IBM is using, with this software being enterprise-ready and having a large community of active contributors. Because not all open source is the same, developers need to explore what’s out there but there are may examples of this enterprise-ready software.

Back in the day I would have said “you get what you pay for” and would have thought negatively about open source because it was “free” and didn’t provide support. But in today’s world, the “free” cost comes with a community of developers continually extending, improving, and innovating so it’s a very positive view today.

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