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Opening Up To Open Source


Indian enterprises are warming up to open source technologies, which are now being recognised for their ability to boost efficiency and reduce the cost of operations

By Express Computer team

The era of proprietary software may be far from over,  but its dominance is being challenged by open source technologies. Many large enterprises and mid-size organisations are making a shift towards open source. This is revealed by Black Duck Software’s Future of Open Source Survey 2014. Over 50% of the respondents in the survey said that they were planning to use open source for managing their their internal operations.

“Open source has proven its quality and security, and reached the point of democratisation and proliferation,” says Lou Shipley, President and CEO – Black Duck Software. The survey findings are inline with the assessment of some of the top open source software vendors in enterprise software market today.

“In last few years, we have seen enterprise customers across industry segments implement open source solutions. This trend is leading to the generation of interest in other players in the industry,” says
Dirk-Peter Van Leeuwen, Senior Vice President & General Manager – Asia Pacific Region, Red Hat.
“Even conventional enterprises are beginning to adopt open source and their past queries around business criticality have now changed to how open source can be used for middleware, databases and other areas,” Leeuwen adds.

Open Source in Vogue
The enterprise customers are getting inclined towards open source technologies because they are confident that they can get more productivity from such solutions. Some open source technologies are as efficient as proprietary software.

“It is good to see that enterprises are getting involved in the IT decision making process and are now open to change, and are looking for alternatives,” opines Leeuwen. The global movement towards open source is also palpable in the Indian market. Several large and mid-size businesses in India are exploring solutions crafted from open source technologies.

The list of enterprise customers for RedHat in India has names like – Center for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL), National Commodities & Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX), Uttam Energy Tech Limited, Enhancesys, Hungama, Marico and Bilcare Research.

“The open source Linux market is growing at about 18% year-on-year as compared to there being 4-5% growth in Windows; this clearly shows the shift in the market preference. SUSE has been seeing 23-24% yearly growth,” says Venkatesh Swaminathan, Country Head – The Attachmate Group India. Attachmate serves several Indian enterprises, including the national carrier Air India, Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Dimension Data and Cafe Coffee Day.

“The open source adoption rate has been increasing in the last few years and we have some of our critical applications running on open source technology,” says Thomson Thomas, Senior Vice President –IT (Business Systems and Technology), HDFC Standard Life Insurance.

“We have a Point of Sale (PoS) system, which is used by the sales team and their partners. We have opted for open source for our new applications. These are based on different open source technologies,” adds Thomas.

Like HDFC Standard Life Insurance, most large organisations deploy diverse open-source technologies and applications for unique business and operational needs.

“Large portals with Java-based development environments are known to use Red Hat’s middleware to provide quick system access to users, the insurers rely on JBoss Rules engine and telcos prefer data-pro technology to support customers’ portal for instant access to mobile bills,” says Leeuwen.

“Evidently the solutions that are currently being used in India are technologies that require huge scalability and are very new to this industry,” he adds. He points out that scalability is the key requirement of technology solutions for businesses in India.

The Open Ecosystem
While it is primarily the cost factor that is driving the adoption of open source technologies, there are other reasons also for the growth of this vertical. Thomas stresses that the ecosystem of open source has evolved to support an entire enterprise.

The open source ecosystem has been continuously maturing and expanding over a period of many years. The Commercial Open Source Software (COSS) is a segment that purely caters to enterprises. That is where the open source software vendors provide Enterprise Edition (EE) software or applications to customers.

Software vendors, including Red Hat, SUSE, Black Duck Software, Kitware and others operating in the COSS domain are offering EE software to enterprise customers under a licence/subscription or a support fees.

A growing community of Open Source Software (OSS) users, makes use of the freely available Community Edition (CE) software. Mostly known as freeware, this software does not carry any licence fees.

The development of open source technologies is actually driven by diverse groups or communities of individual developers, coders and programmers who collaborate on various projects to build distinct software products and tools. These communities have their own unique focus areas like software, hardware, mobile, scientific research, etc.

This community based software development involves product development teams from vendors that at times contribute number of codes and modules back into the community projects. Hence the software development in open source does not stop at any point, changes are made constantly.

On the COSS side, it is the vendors along with their product teams that actually put the required effort for creating software that has high performance, security, quality, scalability and all the technical support that enterprise customers need.

According to a Gartner study, most software makers will have some open source applications or code in their portfolio by 2016. The study also reaches the conclusion that 99% of Forbes’ Global 2000 companies will be using some form of open source software.

Even businesses and companies operating in the non-IT and technical domains will take benefit of OSS to support and drive business plans, as per the research firm.

Today the open source ecosystem is highly active and vibrant on the enterprise front as Thomas from HDFC Standard Life Insurance has pointed out earlier. So it wouldn’t be wrong to say that open source technology has actually come a long way to win the trust and confidence of enterprises and their respective IT heads and CIOs.

Concerns Around Openness
There are certain criteria that organisations and their top management need to evaluate before stepping into the open source territory and moving away from traditional or proprietary software.

Yateen Chodnekar, Group CIO – Writer Corporation, says that a right balance and detailed due diligence is essential to make a choice between open source and proprietary software.

“Of the two, which one will best meet the organisation’s needs and at what cost? How much reliability, flexibility and sustainability will it offer to the organisation?”

“There are levels involved in these decisions that can’t be resolved in terms of black and white thinking. The choice between open-source and proprietary software is usually a false dilemma. The reality being that they are not mutually exclusive,” says Chodnekar.

Since the evolution of proprietary software models, enterprises and organisations in general have been widely objecting to the software license fee or charges and subsequent annual fees for upgrades and newer versions. Besides the license cost, inter-compatibility of one software application with the other is a contentious issue.

“Customers are looking at non-traditional ways of doing business. We have seen many wins in India on SUSE and the biggest concern that got highlighted is the over-dependability on one single vendor. Such over-dependence often leads to lock-ins, rigidity and high costs. Post engagement with us many vendors have achieved flexibility, heterogeneity and reduced costs,” informs Swaminathan of Attachmate Group.

Managing security
Are open source technologies as secure as the proprietary software? Thomas from HDFC Standard Life Insurance says, “Currently we don’t have any foolproof assurance from proprietary software makers. Hence the security aspect in both open source and proprietary must be similar.”

“We implement only those solutions that have stood the test of time and have proved to be efficient, versatile and secure,” he informs.

Attachmate Group’s Swaminathan believes that open source technology offers affordable performance, greater agility and reduced risk. He says that enterprises are using Linux because it delivers the performance and security they need, but at a more affordable price.

“Linux allows greater efficiencies, it helps organisations become agile. It reduces their risk – risk of vendor lock in, technology obsolescence, etc,” he adds.

“I believe that open source is a better solution for modern enterprises. We work hard to stay a step ahead in our response to emerging security threats. Red Hat has a Security Response Team, which is a dedicated unit for quickly addressing software security and vulnerabilities related issues,” says Leeuwen of Red Hat.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at editors@expresscomputeronline.com


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