Aug 9, 2019 by Armory
Modern companies, whether they sell socks or trade stocks, are all really software companies: They use software to create competitive advantages, to react to customer demand and market changes, and to find innovative ways to both streamline internal processes and deliver more value to customers.
So why should a major enterprise depend on open source software, created essentially by volunteers, to create the foundations of its digital infrastructure?
In most cases, open source software is both better than proprietary solutions and is being improved upon more quickly—meaning the gap between reliability and quality is growing. Healthy open source projects have thousands of contributors around the world applying lessons learned from real-life use cases to make the open source project better. Closed source projects, even those developed by major companies, simply don’t have as many people contributing to the project’s success. There’s also a disconnect: The person developing the software isn’t actually using the software. With open source, fixes or new features are often developed in response to a contributor encountering a real-life need while using the software at his or her day job.
Engineering talent is a limited resource, and one that companies often struggle with. Even though all companies are software companies, it’s harder to attract top talent when your pockets aren’t bottomless, your product isn’t tech-focused, and your location isn’t glamorous. Serious engineers often like to contribute to open source projects and see doing so as something that should be part of a good job. Using open source, and allowing your engineering team to contribute any new features or fixes they develop, allows you to not only get access to the best possible software solutions, but also to attract better engineers.
Given the importance of software to any modern business, avoiding vendor lock-in should be a primary concern. Vendor lock-in takes two forms: One is being locked in with cloud providers, which can make it impossible to leverage multicloud strategies and leave companies vulnerable to price increases.
The second type of lock-in is just as dangerous: Your company becomes dependent on a separate company to build, deploy, or manage your mission-critical applications. You have no control over the other company’s product and can’t prevent them from discontinuing a feature you depend on. This type of dependency creates an unacceptable level of business risk that could leave you scrambling to find a new solution or quickly create your own when a vendor is acquired or goes out of business. With open source software, this risk doesn’t exist—you always have access to the source code and can create new features if you need to at any time. Even if an open source project isn’t supported anymore, you will always have access to the codebase and can support it in-house if needed. There’s no risk of an overnight bankruptcy that leaves you with application downtime.
Choosing open source software gets companies access to the best software solutions out there, allows companies to attract better engineering talent and takes away the business risk associated with relying on third-party vendors. It also allows companies to leverage the work of thousands of engineers worldwide and frees up the internal team to work on building creative software solutions that will create value for the business—not just keep the lights on.
Want to take a deeper dive? Check out our ebook: The Case for an Open Source Approach to Software Delivery.
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