Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4 Myths About Open Source We Should Put to Rest

Growing consumerization of technology means an increasing number of people have control of what technologies they use in both their personal and business lives. Two of the biggest areas where this trend manifests itself these days are mobile technologies and software, the latter of which has resulted in a steady and significant growth in the use of open source software (OSS) thanks to its lower cost and relatively similar functional capabilities. Respondents in last year’s annual Future of Open Source Survey, which is currently being run for 2013 and can be taken here, indicated that by 2017 organizations will spend 50 percent more than they do now on OSS purchases.
Yet, despite such growth, OSS is still often derided as inferior in quality, security, and longevity in comparison to proprietary software when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Here are 4 concerns that still persist about OSS, and why they should officially be labeled myths:
Myth 1: Open source is less secure than proprietary software
In short, licensing models have nothing to do with security. If anything, OSS allows for development teams to rapidly address any security issues, whereas proprietary systems must rely on the software vendor to get around to issuing an update or patch.
Additionally, open source projects benefit greatly from having a diverse community that is interested in the development of the solution, not just one vendor. This allows for things like peer review from a base of knowledgeable and expert supporters. This really can’t be undervalued, because while these communities are invested in the quality of the software, they aren’t necessarily invested in making a buck from every functional improvement.
In the end, if you asked a group of people to use the same processes to produce a proprietary model and OSS model of their software, they would likely be just as secure, and just as functional.
Myth 2: Open source is harder to maintain
Question: What do all these things have in common?: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous utterance “hasta la vista, baby”; Nirvana’s Nevermind album; The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Tim Berners-Lee’s “World Wide Web” (aka, the Internet); the original Linux open source kernel.
Answer: They all made their debut in 1991. And 22 years later, Linux is stronger than ever. Just last year, one of the world’s most popular gaming distribution platforms, Valve’s Steam – which at 54 million user accounts has an estimated 50–70% share of the digital distribution market for video games, made a version that works on Linux.
In many situations in fact, OSS can live on after the relationship with the original producer or vendor has ended, whether it’s because the vendor has shifted focus, went out of business, or priced itself out of the relationship – OSS remains valuable because it eschews all of these potential pitfalls.
Myth 3: There is less support for open source software
If we look at Linux as an example, some of the biggest companies in the world, for instance Google and Facebook, rely on Linux to run their servers, so they will always be concerned with maintaining software that basically runs the platform on which its business is built.
What’s more, with open source software, a business can always bring in an independent third party for support and consultation, rather than having to wait for the proprietary vendor to get around to addressing a particular issue they may have.
Myth 4: Open source is not enterprise-grade
I’m going to start my answer to this one with a list of organizations who use open source systems:
• Amazon
• Google
• Facebook
• Twitter
• Reddit
• Wikipedia
• McDonalds
• London Stock Exchange
• New York Stock Exchange
• Audi
• Peugeot
• Virgin America
• Dreamworks
That’s really just scratching the surface. Many of the world’s biggest organizations don’t just use open source software, but, in some cases, like Google’s Android, base an enormous portion of their entire business on it.
When the results of 2013 Open Source Survey are released in May of this year, I have no doubt we’ll see even more evidence of open source’s continued growth, and, hopefully, we’ll also see evidence that these myths are becoming just that.

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