Open Source is all about Community
At a very high level, software is “open source” when the original source code is made freely available by its creators for anyone to review, use, modify and or redistribute. Unlike proprietary software, where the source code is not available and typically requires a licensing fee to use it, open source fosters a community of users and contributors that rapidly drives innovation, shapes the software, and creates economies of scale.
Some of the individuals and organizations using open-source software collaborate with other members of the open-source community. They create an informal strategic alliance, working together to maintain, enhance, foster, and promote the shared code. As the community of contributors grows, so do the aggregate benefits, features, and capabilities of the software. With more people looking at and modifying the source code, bugs and security problems are also found and addressed much more quickly.
Historically, I think many large organizations would do well to at least consider an open-source solution amongst the many proprietary options they were evaluating; now open source is more prevalent and the benefits more widely understood. There is also a new generation of technology leaders, and they want open technologies. More and more folks are beginning to value the freedom, flexibility, transparency, and security that open source provides.
More and more folks are beginning to value the freedom, flexibility, transparency, and security that open source provides
Adoption of open source is stronger than ever, and as a long-term advocate of Drupal, I’m excited to see that continue to grow. When it was first introduced, organizations had hesitations about making the leap, but as more and more businesses moved from proprietary systems to open source, the power and potential was much clearer and more widely understood. Open source has fostered greater security, rapid innovation, and huge cost and time savings, among so many other benefits.
Today, almost every individual and organization relies on open-source software in some critical aspect of their daily life and business operations. For example, the majority of smartphones are on the open-source operating system Android, and most businesses rely on open source for some or all of their Internet technology. Most organizations today are now proactively seeking open-source solutions for core business needs.
The biggest change that I see—and an exciting one at that—is that more organizations are going beyond simply adopting open source. Across the private and public sector, we’re seeing leading organizations like Microsoft and the White House open-source code and projects that they’ve created. They are now contributing to and investing in the open-source projects they rely on, which is in turn benefitting the entire open-source community. This is one of the key reasons behind Drupal being such a fast mover and innovator in the Gartner Magic Quadrant.
Challenges on the Way
Organizations can be very successful with open-source software simply by downloading and using it for free, but the challenge is going beyond that. The biggest benefits for businesses will come from investment, engagement and participation in communities and projects. The sum of the whole is greater than its parts, the more contributors and resources an open-source project has, the more everyone involved in a project benefits. Open-source software is built and maintained by communities. In order to hire the best talent and have a successful future with the technology, you need to participate, support and get involved. This is a big change for organizations in how they view their relationship with, and investment in, technology.
Aligning Needs and Plans
At Acquia, we’ve worked with a variety of businesses across countless industries, and each has a different goal that they hope to attain. Make sure that you’re choosing software that aligns with your organization's needs and plans. At the same time, open source is all about community—we encourage organizations that implement open source to help each other, to validate their approaches, to talk to and learn from one another. Get engaged in your local and global open-source communities, support and contribute to them, make an investment and that is where you will see the biggest return on investment.