Even with the prominence of open source in today’s market, as a consultant, I am often asked to bolster the argument about why open source is the right option. Convincing management that open source solutions make sense is imperative. The following reasons describe why open source makes sense from a strategic business perspective.
Limit your risk
Companies fail and in today’s volatile market it is important to limit risk by not leaning too heavily on a company’s viability. Closed-source software increases this risk as the fate of the software is tied to the vendor who creates the software. With open source software, this risk is mitigated. Even if the company fails, the source is available allowing you to continue to use the product while a migration strategy is formulated.
Ensure a quality product
Closed source software is limited by the number of developers on staff that can resolve bugs while adding features to the software. Open source software is maintained by the community and end users are able to participate in that development. While there are a limited number of individuals able to alter the product itself, they are aided by community members pouring over the source identifying bugs and submitting patches. With all of these eyes on the source, this leads to a higher quality end product.
Development for free
Cost cutting is critical to the success of the business. Bug-fixes, features, and documentation all incur cost for your IT organization. With open source, these requirements are developed and maintained by the community. If the community has not yet addressed an issue, participation in the community is easy by simply getting involved.
Only pay for what you need
Developing a product using open source software is an investment in effort. A software product can be implemented rapidly and released with minimal cost. Yet, many organizations will want support for products they are releasing into a production environment. Enterprise level open source software products are backed by organizations that provide this support as well as indemnification for their products.
Attract the best talent
Have you heard of the 10x developer? These developers are 10 times as productive as their peers due to their skill and passion for what they do. The open source community is full of these talented, passionate developers ready to work on an exciting project. By using the products that interest these developers, your organization will attract these highly skilled individuals and increase the productivity of your organization.
Validated by industry use
The “free” aspect of open source software has led to rapid, widespread adoption in both small and large organizations alike. This has led to the validation of these products in far-reaching domains and production environments. Rather than relying on the promises of a vendor, you can be assured by industry use that the product will meet your expectations.
Being developed by a community means transparency. Bugs are found, short-comings are noted, and new capabilities are discussed and voted upon all in a public forum. This not only allows your organization to stay informed, but also provide input on product direction. Open source software evolves according to market demand rather than being tied to vendor constraints.
None of this is to say that proprietary solutions are unreasonable. But with these reasons in mind, open source software products should be considered as a viable option. As with proprietary solutions, open source software products should be evaluated according to the features they provide, market share, and cost benefit to the organization.
If you have reasons of your own, I would certainly like to hear them.