Why Enterprises are Embracing Open Source Software

John Newton Alfrescoby John Newton | 5/23/16

Open source solutions are by no means in their infancy, as use in the commercial sector has grown immensely. In fact, last year’s Future of Open Source Survey found that the adoption of open source across industries and organizations of all sizes had reached an all-time high: 78 percent of companies run part or all of their operations on open source software. What makes open source such a good choice for enterprises?

For enterprise IT teams, finding ways to manage archaic IT systems is a daily struggle. Costly investments made over decades have resulted in CIOs too heavily invested in old technology to warrant a rip-and-replace methodology. Open source solutions are a perfect fit for modernizing a legacy system as they are vendor agnostic with no vendor lock in. Open source solutions also encourage organization-wide innovation and can save enterprises time and money.

Customization Facilitates Innovation

Proprietary software is not only expensive, but it is very restrictive. It cannot be configured to meet individual needs, which means that enterprises are stuck waiting every time they want to change something. In addition, they can only change so much, which means the software cannot keep up with changing business needs.

The open APIs inherent in open source software mean that developers can customize the solution to meet their needs. Once it is downloaded, any changes can be made to it; code can be removed, added, or improved upon. In addition, the ability to adapt new applications to existing open source platforms is significantly easier and more reliable.

With open source software, consumers needn’t wait years to deploy a solution. Open source software can be test driven prior to procurement and is particularly suitable for collaboration, rapid prototyping and experimentation. Plus, because open software adheres to open standards, interoperability is built-in. Because of all of this, open source software has forced continual innovation, leading to new startups, services and applications.

Vendor Freedom Yields Cost Savings

Open source platforms get enterprises away from proprietary systems for which the cost of long-term ownership must include the expense incurred from the software provider for all updates and new applications. Enterprises themselves are not able to take advantage of the source code because that is owned and maintained by the provider.

By its very nature, the source code for open source software is available to all, meaning everyone has equal access to the software and can customize it to their unique use case. Any company can build upon open source software. It may be operated and maintained by multiple vendors, reducing both the barrier to entry and exit. A customer can easily choose another vendor because they are not locked into one vendor’s offering. Also, because open source software can be extended by developers familiar with the code, enterprises are not at the mercy of a vendor for changes. This also assures that organizations always own their solution regardless of what happens to the vendor.

Most open source platforms have tens of thousands of developers producing new applications for the latest programs, making updates free or a low cost to implement. Open source is constantly being updated, which means organizations get technology that is improved continually without having to pay expensive upgrades fees. Developers volunteer their time and expertise, and are coordinated by fewer paid programmers. The lower overhead costs translate into substantial savings as does the fact that open source software typically does not have a per-seat licensing cost.  

In addition to the cost benefits, open source can help enterprises save money in other areas. Through the use of open source, enterprises eliminate the need to have tons of internal expertise and equipment. Rather than focus on having engineers and servers, organizations can spend their resources on the tools they can put on top of the infrastructure already in place to maximize the value of their investments.  

Open Source Software Helps Productivity, Growth and Collaboration

Open source solutions are built upon an architecture that can adapt to unforeseen changes in enterprise computing and eliminate the vendor lock-in imposed by proprietary products. This openness combined with distributed peer review and transparency drive software innovation at an accelerated pace and lower cost. Open standards make it easy to integrate an open source offering into existing IT environments and to adapt the system as new business needs and technologies emerge. The tremendous power in an open source model dramatically accelerates the rate of product innovation. This type of open, modern architecture is ideally suited to today’s working and computing environments. Open source solutions will enable enterprises to work more productively, drive growth and enable collaboration across the extended enterprise.

John Newton is CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco – a leading provider of modern Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Business Process Management (BPM) software. He has had one of the longest and most influential careers in content management; he co-founded Documentum and built its marketing and professional services organizations in Europe, invented many of the concepts widely used in the industry today, served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Benchmark Capital and was one of the founding engineers at Ingres. Follow John @johnnewton.