Open Source and Trends shaping it
Open source as name implies is an open invitation to engineers, developers, coders and technology experts to join the community driven initiative and projects. You can download the source code, test by deploying it in your environment and become a user of the project or technology. Users of open source projects can contribute to the project to make the solution or technology more stable and enterprise ready. The word contribute means that you are bringing your experience and getting involved in that particular open source initiative or project. It brings a whole new energy and experience once initial involvement starts.
Cloud and Big Data analytics have been trending for years and we will see more projects under this umbrella because there is a strong need to improve the existing technology stack to store and process source of truth, raw data in a cost effective way. Micro services and Containerization is another area where we are seeing a trend to reduce time to market, development cycles and effective use of infrastructure resources. Artificial intelligence will definitely dominate the market in a year or so and this will be practical use of AI rather just talking. Open source technologies are playing a key role in all these trends because developers and engineers are contributing back to the community to find effective and faster solutions to their problems.
Open source mindset is a must because the technology ecosystem is changing rapidly and it’s important to have community driven solutions
Increased Adoption of Open Source Today
Once condemned as cancer by Microsoft, nobody would have imagined that open source would become such a pervasive force today. On the contrary, it has become an integral part of mainstream computing and started occupying the top slots of mission-critical software portfolio, all within the past one and a half decades. But looking at the trajectory, I think the strategic inflexion point is yet to surface.
But for the open source movement, 99 percent of Global 2000- enterprises today would have been held ransom by commercial software sector. Once seen as an easy escape route for avoiding licensing costs, it has led us into a whole new free world where service, support, consulting, and maintenance are all available under one inexpensive roof.
An offshoot of this movement is, “Enterprises turn into software companies” - a glaring trend that we recurrently witness these days. This is primarily fueled by the Open Source movement, as it cuts heavily into the IT budgets of futuristic enterprises, in a most positive manner.
With new vistas opening from various fronts such as IoT, Analytics, AI, and VR and standing on the shoulders of cloud, mobile and social giants, I am sure an opportune moment is going to dawn for Open Source to reinvent itself very shortly. This new avatar is going to transport us to a whole new universe where imagination is going to be the only limiting factor to further our IT endeavors.
Challenges in Open Source
As the network effect has started kicking in and millions of intelligent minds have started tinkering the open source software round the clock planet wide, one serious challenge that we should continuously tackle is the Open Source itself.
With a plethora of Open Source projects out in the market, many of them might just be mindless code fragments which may not confine to sacred architectural tenets, strict coding guidelines, and principled rules. With no guarantee, guidance, and support whatsoever, they don’t just throw their code into the ring; they throw the user organizations to the wolves. Even highly regarded Open Source products might not live up to a conservative organization’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) standards. So identifying the right Open Source products that conform to EA standards and integration norms is a real challenge as the probability of creating technical debt is much higher than the often touted benefits of Open Source.
The other big challenge that surrounds Open Source is security. The ‘Heartbleed flaw’ of OpenSSL and the ‘shellshock bug’ of BASH, after being out in the open for 20 years, are just the tip of the ice berg. Just because the code is transparent and a huge number of eyeballs are constantly gazing at the critical cracks, it does not mean that it can bail us out of an impending massacre again. Especially in this digital era, where everything is going to be connected, the scale of catastrophe that can unfold is scary beyond imagination as everything can be compromised in a matter of micro seconds. So, guarding connected things is certainly going to be the next big security challenge for Open Source movement going forward.
Advice for the CIOs
Build the bridge between technical and business people. Let technical resources listen to the customer requirements in detail and focus on having transparent layer between engineering, sales and business because once this happens correctly then it results in an amazing process where all right brains start working in the right direction. Open source mindset is must because the technology ecosystem is changing very fast and it’s important to have community driven solutions because there is an army of smart people from various organizations contributing to the open source community and no doubt that adaptions to open source model without compromising the security has picked up a strong momentum in last few years.
The first challenge is building a smart center of excellence around the open source technology, motivating the existing resources within the organization and then addressing genuine concerns on implementing open source solutions. There is always a question on going for vendor support vs. DIY and that’s why having brainstorming workshop sessions and involving all the key members from various teams is important while making a technology decision. As mentioned earlier that open source ecosystem is growing fast that’s why having a clear future technical road map, following the new projects and updates in the existing open source projects relevant to your technologies is very important to stay in the game. One of the best techniques is to test fast and fail fast to filter out the technologies because picking the right technology is one of the challenges besides keeping people motivated and trained.