Companies don’t like competition because it lowers costs and cuts into margins. But consumers—and now governments—love it for precisely that reason.
For years, a few companies have had a stranglehold on the software market. Their early technological proliferation eventually led to something of a monopoly and as customers became dependent on their products, those companies were free to charge whatever they wanted, a classic case of demand outweighing supply.
But open source technology is seriously disrupting that dynamic these days, and governments are increasingly realizing its potential. For example, the U.K. government has spent an estimated $331 million on software since 2010, a staggering figure in cash-strapped economic times. The institution is now turning to open source technology to empower its civil servants.
By diversifying its software portfolio, the U.K. believes it will enable its employees to more effectively move projects forward without being tied to one piece of proprietary software and all the bugs and quirks that may come with it. Simply put, if one application doesn’t work, the government can move on and use another one (rather than, say, waiting for that proprietary company to fix the application). That kind of flexibility is not something the government currently has but something it sorely needs.
Additionally, open source proponents tout its security benefits, of particular note after recent allegations that some large technology companies may be trading and selling data across international boundaries. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen when the software you’re using isn’t proprietary.
And these benefits don’t even factor in the huge cost savings open source typically provides. To quantify just how much the U.K. might save in making the switch, consider that the city of Munich saved more than $16 million through a similar move. Those kinds of savings, coupled with the independence and developmental capabilities open source technology and software provide, make it a potentially game-changing move for organizations of all sizes and scopes.
Technological innovation, for the most part, can always be traced to something that came before it. Take the smartphones of today for example. Such devices would not be possible without the cellphones of yore which find their roots in cordless phones, rotary phones and ultimately Alexander Graham Bell. And of course, Bell’s telephone finds its roots in the classic tin can telephone. And the list goes on and on.
Considering the telephone’s evolution into today’s smartphone, one can draw similar comparisons to the open source software movement. In that community, programmers stationed around the world link up to collaborate and build upon each other’s code. With over one million open source projects in existence today, and many industry juggernauts—like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Apple—on board, the open source community is driving all sorts of technological innovation.
What’s more, the automobile industry—typically known for its reticence—is increasingly turning toward open source software to power its infotainment systems. Because the technology is known for the speed at which it evolves and carmakers understand that they need to be on the forefront of innovation if they wish to remain well-positioned within the industry, this sort of marriage makes complete sense.
More and more, companies that once held their cards close to their chests are embracing the open source movement, learning how important the ability to leverage resources outside of their own organization can be. Rather than devoting all resources to developing their own code in totality, these companies are realizing that they can build upon code developed in the open source community, taking it and adding unique differentiators to it to create value.
Companies that resist the open source movement are putting themselves at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors. By embracing open source technology, businesses can accelerate the speed at which innovation occurs rather than taking an unnecessarily Sisyphean approach.
By embracing the communal philosophies behind open source software, Facebook has saved $1.2 billion on its massive data centers and server farms, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose last month. In addition to the hefty financial savings, the company also saved a tremendous amount of energy—the equivalent of what 40,000 homes need—and reduced its carbon emissions by the equivalent of 50,000 cars.
The financial and environmental savings are a direct result of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, in which data center designs were shared freely and thus improved upon in a communal setting hundreds of times. Because the project is rooted in open source, companies across all verticals can implement the designs and realize comparable savings as well.
“People are spending so much on infrastructure,” Zuckerberg said at the summit. The Open Compute Project “creates a pretty broad incentive for people to participate.”
Facebook itself is rooted in open source and open systems. It is because of that organizational philosophy that the social media juggernaut decided to abandon traditional data center and server designs and forge its own path. The company implemented the first designs at its data center in Prineville, Ore. and has subsequently used them at its server farms in North Carolina, Iowa and Sweden.
Because of the scope of the company’s data centers and server farms—remember, there are over 1.3 billion Facebook users and 64 percent of them visit the site everyday—the financial savings that the company realizes is set to increase over time.
“As you make these marginal gains, they compound dramatically over time,” explains Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure engineering. “We’re actually saving a ton of money.”
Facebook’s decision to embrace open source—and the results experienced because of that decision—is further proof that the future remains very bright for the technology.
Open source software adoption is growing everywhere and Germany is no exception. From the government to enterprise, the need for open source software management tools has never been greater. That’s why Protecode has recently announced the formation of Protecode Germany which will enable software teams in Germany to accelerate development by reaping the full benefits of open source software.
Protecode’s fully automated products discover open source and other third party content in a code portfolio, highlighting legal obligations, security vulnerabilities, IP ownership and quality attributes of the external code. Protecode’s tools integrate seamlessly into existing workflows and can generate a variety of interactive reports. Additionally, Protecode’s software assessment and audit services help companies remove Intellectual Property (IP) ownership uncertainties in anticipation of an M&A, investment or product shipment.
“Protecode’s solutions are a perfect fit for the German market,” said Dr. Andreas Kotulla, general manager, Protecode Germany. “Virtually everyone that develops software is now using some form of open source or third party code. These organizations are looking for simple and affordable solutions that tie into existing development processes for managing the licensing and security challenges that can arise with open source software.”
Protecode Germany will provide the German market with support for Protecode’s full open source management product line. This includes:
Protecode Enterprise System 4TM – a scalable scanning and management solution for enterprises, consisting of different product components to execute a complete Open Source Software Adoption Process (OSSAP), suitable for large, multi-location organizations.
Protecode CompactTM – a single seat code scanning solution that maintains all scanning and discovery features of its enterprise counterpart, and is best suited for smaller companies or individual departments.
Protecode will also provide software code auditing services to any German organization that intends to gain a clear insight into the composition of the software included in a financial transaction.
Open source technology has certainly come a long way since its inception. Gone are the days of being able to name all open source vendors and projects. But as more and more projects come on to the scene—and prominent entities integrate open source software into their infrastructures—there’s as much confusion as there is excitement surrounding the collaborative technology.
With this in mind, it’s important to set the record straight regarding four myths surrounding open source software:
- People will work for free on open source code. Just because you’ve decided to make your code open source doesn’t mean that there is a throng of programmers that will gravitate to your project just because it exists. While there will certainly be enthusiastic people who might decide to do that, everyone’s got to eat and people need to pay the bills somehow.
- Open source is always cheaper. Proprietary software is more expensive than open source software, but companies realize the highest expenses associated with changes in infrastructure due to costs associated with personnel. Open source implemented by a strong IT team will deliver the best results, financially speaking.
- Open source is worse than proprietary software. Neither that statement nor its converse is true. The strength of a project depends on the time, effort and ingenuity utilized by the programmers. Just as proprietary vendors fire duds from time to time, all open source projects can fall anywhere on the quality spectrum from terrible to excellent.
- Open source projects progress faster. While opening up projects to the open source community means that more eyeballs will tweak the code, the fact remains that open source projects are based on building blocks that remain relatively stable over the life of the project.
- You can’t use open source in a proprietary product. More organizations than ever before are using open source software in their projects. While legal challenges and security concerns can potentially arise, ensuring that you have a structured process in place for the adoption and management of open source eliminates most of these challenges.
Heard of any other open source myths? Debunk them in the comments below!
Read all about it here, with this week’s assortment of open source news!
Opening DARPA’s Software Vault
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) , the minds who brought you the Internet and dolphin security guards have published a list of all the open source projects they have funded, all in the spirit of improving the quality of the software. The story appeared on Wired, and the full list of projects is here.
Rackspace Declares Open Sesame on Open Source Software
Now isn’t this sweet? Rackspace is encouraging its employees to contribute, on their own time, to any OSS project they want as to not Rackspace lawyers who are busy with other more urgent legal tasks. Way to go Rackspace, and may this be the start of a trend everywhere. Read the full article here.
Want to Land A Job? Contribute to Open Source!
Is there an end to benefits of open source? Contribute to open source and you’ll have a better chance at getting hired. According to Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation, “code is the new resume”. Open source contributions allow developers to showcase their skills. Read the engaging blog on OStatic, then head over to GitHub and start coding!
Android: Are We Open Yet?
Documents have recently been leaked that detail the steps OEMs must take in order to be granted a Google Play license for their Android device. One stipulation is that the OEM is prohibited from forking Android, which has OSS advocates’ underwear in a knot. Read the full dirty laundry list at Ars Technica.
Open Source vs Commercial ROI
Or is it open source plus commercial? It turns out that the embedded market is still discussing the return on investment (ROI) angle of OSS versus commercial software, and ever-so-slightly favours a commercial software approach due to IP uncertainties associated with Open Source. It just so happens that we remove those IP uncertainties. Read the New Electronics article here.
In Other News…
On the subject of ROI, we have an upcoming webinar on optimizing the cost of OSS management. Here are the details should you be interested.
Thanks to the evolution of technology, big data—the collection of information pertaining to virtually anything you can imagine—has emerged, giving businesses a plethora of figures, numbers and trends to comb through in order to more accurately capture characteristics of the consumer market.
Generally speaking, the more information we have at our disposal, the better position we are in to make informed decisions. But because the collection of big data can provide a vast array of complex information that can be hard to make sense of given its sheer volume, it’s important for decision makers to employ cutting edge technology to help synthesize the data.
And that’s exactly where open source technology comes into play. In addition to the big data platform Apache Hadoop, a significant amount of other open source projects are emerging, all of which are designed to help businesses get the most out of the data that they have at their disposal. Let’s take a look at three such enterprises:
- Spark bills itself as a “fast and general engine for large-scale data processing.” The project advertises that it runs programs 100 times faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory and 10 times faster on disk.
- Drill provides “low latency ad-hoc queries to many different data sources, including nested data. The project aims “to scale to 10,000 servers and query petabytes of data in seconds.”
- D3.jslets users manipulate big data documents and create dynamic graphics of all varieties with it. For example, users can use identical data for such disparate purposes as generating a simple table or creating an interactive graphic like this.
The more information that we have at our disposal, the better off we are. But information isn’t useful if we can’t make sense of it. And that’s precisely why the open source community is innovatively collaborating on projects like Spark, Drill and D3.js—to give business owners the tools that they need to take advantage of the knowledge they can’t process on their own.
The National Security Agency can’t catch a break these days and that could mean good things for open source providers.
In recent days, both the NSA and some large international corporations have come under fire for partnering to extend the reach of one of the longer arms of the U.S. security web. As it was revealed that proprietary software vendors were working with the government to abet their surveillance efforts, serious concerns arose about the propriety of those relationships and their implications for the larger business community.
Investors filed suit against one such vendor for its NSA collaboration, and similar litigation appears likely for a few other tech giants. But more than any immediate monetary penalties or lost business, all the parties involved should be concerned about the toll these pairings may take on their public reputations. Domestically, the NSA’s popularity is at its nadir, as a large portion of the population is concerned about its privacy and the violation thereof. As Edward Snowden continues to reveal how the NSA may have overstepped its constitutional rights and others support and further that claim, the agency is being scrutinized more closely than ever. By partnering with international proprietary software vendors, those security concerns are exacerbated, since it could potentially make high-level information accessible or, at the least, hackable to a much broader audience around the globe.
Internationally, confidence seems to be eroding in those U.S. business mainstays, as well as the country’s government. As part of the tightening and review of security procedures, foreign companies may have to jump through additional U.S. oversight hoops, slowing the pace of their businesses (a matter that is particularly concerning in the fast-moving technology sector), and perhaps scaring them away altogether. The collectively shaken international faith in the U.S. government’s honesty and dealings may also manifest as reduced business and increased scrutiny. Germany, for instance, is actively taking steps to protect its citizens against espionage threats from the NSA and other foreign intelligence agencies.
The most interesting step on Germany’s part may be a signal of a larger, more positive result of the situation. Germany is looking to open source technology as an alternative to closed proprietary systems as a means of diversifying its technological holdings and infrastructure and protecting against proprietary software vendors using data culled from their operations abroad to feed the NSA at home.
Open source technology may in fact be safer for companies and governments alike because it allows them to build their own systems and safeguards. Without backdoor access through their proprietary relationships, the NSA would have to do their entire information gathering on their own and would not have a ready conduit, like these aforementioned proprietary software vendors, for easy access to it. To boot, open source technology enables a robust amount of flexibility for organizations to adapt their tools moving forward. Because of the frenetic pace at which technology is moving, this is almost a necessity and one that proprietary relationships can’t always guarantee.
It should come as no surprise, then, if organizations of all kinds and locations start turning their attention and resources toward open source options.
In this week’s compilation of open source news!
Safer Android Apps, Coming Soon To A Smartphone Near You
Facebook has open sourced the code for its Android security tool Conceal, a programming code library for safely encrypting and decrypting data that various apps store on SD cards. The tool will obviously benefit end users, but also Facebook and any company that a) creates apps, and b) cares about security and privacy of their customers. Learn more about Conceal at Wired.
Where You Get Your Code Matters
There is more than one FileZilla! While the official version of FileZilla (downloaded from the official project site) remains safe to use, corrupted, malware-infested, versions abound on various places around the web. Open source by nature permits different versions of software to appear, so the best way to ensure security is to download applications from a trusted source.
Hardware: Can it Go Viral, or is it just so … passé?
At the recent Open Compute Summit, the Open Compute Project (OCP) announced a new more “prescriptive” GPL-esque licensing model that will require anyone profiting from a modified hardware design to contribute that design back to the community. Previously the OCP was licensed more permissively, with an Apache-style license. Read more at InfoWorld.
Full Monty for UK Government- Everything Open
To save money, UK Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude wants to start moving the government away from proprietary productivity software in favor of open source options. Many open source detractors still abound, especially in the IT departments responsible for making the switch as smooth as possible. But with the cost savings the city of Munich has recently shown, the IT teams have an uphill battle on their hands. Get the full story at Information Age.
Open Sourced Hydrogen in Software Defined Networks
OpenDaylight, the project created by the Linux Foundation to create an open source software-defined network (SDN) has announced its first release. Hydrogen is the result of competing proprietary vendors coming together to create an open source foundation for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Download Hydrogen here and read more at ZDNet.
How Can You Measure OSS Management ROI?
There is a standard cost-benefit analysis in managing open source software. Sign up for the webinar after reading the article in Computer World UK.
These days, you shouldn’t think of your car as a means of escape. Automakers certainly aren’t thinking of them that way at least.
The automotive industry is taking the opposite approach, trying to make their products hubs of connectivity. Gone are the days of having to bring a GameBoy and plenty of batteries for entertainment on long road trips. Instead, companies like GM, Volkswagen, Audi and others are integrating technology into their vehicles as a means of making them more dynamic and more user-friendly, not to mention entertaining. All of this serves their bottom lines: If your car is somewhere you want to be, you’re likely to take its purchase seriously and be willing to pay more for that experience.
While such companies have historically shied away from gimmicks and gizmos, this latest trend is a necessity for those automakers to make sure they stay relevant. A completely new set of competition—in smartphones, tablets and GPS units—is vying for the attention of consumers and it’s the company that innovates and integrates those budding consumer desires the most that stands to have the greatest success going forward.
With that in mind, infotainment is now the name of the automotive game.
As the idea of the connected car proliferates, so too does the need for flexibility to adapt and improve upon it. And automakers must stand out from the competition. This is the reason you see such a wide variety of automaker/tech company pairings.
For example, Google recently announced its Open Automotive Alliance (including Honda, GM, Audi, Hyundai and chipmaker Nvidia), Ford paired with Microsoft to collaborate on MyFord Touch and several other carmakers work with BlackBerry. Through these proprietary partnerships, automakers guarantee themselves uniqueness in their implementation and benefit greatly from the partner’s knowledge in an industry not their own.
Some of the more forward-thinking automakers, in turn, are looking to open source technology as the basis for the new tools of their trade. Unlike some of the pairings mentioned above, which may create issues of binding contracts or technological stagnation down the road, open source technology gives companies the freedom to build and innovate as they please. Early iterations of this can be seen in BMW’s Genivi Alliance, which saw the company collaborate with Intel around the Linux operating system.
Though that partnership didn’t take off quite the way either company had hoped, it paved the way for future pairings on open source foundations. Android, the ubiquitous base of many cell phone systems today and a variant of Linux, is becoming a new target for many automakers precisely because of its wide adoption and usage. Since GPS units and smartphones make up some of the automakers’ biggest competition when it comes to infotainment, it makes sense to learn the game those industries are playing and then try to beat them at it. Much of Android technology synchs up nicely with drivers’ and passengers’ needs, as well. Drivers frequently use technological direction aids to get where they’re going or navigate adverse road conditions, and passengers need compelling distractions to pass the time.
As infotainment systems continue to evolve, it makes sense that manufacturers will look toward open source solutions, as such technology lends itself nicely to speedy innovation.