The Enterprise Effect Of Open Source

Cutting edge start-ups aren't the only ones adopting open source, some of the world's largest enterprises are now on board. Here's how some of them are using open source software.

March 2, 2015

4 Min Read
Walmart is one of the bestknown enterprise users of open source
Walmart is one of the best-known enterprise users of open source.

By Alison Diana

Once primarily the purview of small businesses, educational institutions, and cutting edge start-ups, the entire spectrum of organizations — including the world’s largest enterprises — now are adopting open source solutions.

In fact, more than half of all enterprises will use and contribute to open source, a 2014 Black Duck Software study found. Almost 50 percent credit open source for helping them retain their competitive edge; 68 percent claim it lowers costs and improves efficiency, and 62 percent said it enhances IT infrastructure, the survey said. Horse-racing operator Hong Kong Jockey Club, for example, uses SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to power the betting services’ information distribution system. The Guardian relied on Hadoop-based Elasticsearch to create its internal analytics system that processes more than 40 million documents per day to deliver real-time results, according to Graham Tackley, director of Architecture at the British newspaper.

Overall I believe the openness and willingness to try the open source products before the closed-source alternatives has shown a 180 degrees turn. Open source is truly the default option today, and very often, as companies are looking to save and be more efficient, the only viable option,” Zohar Babin, managing director; Platform, Ecosystem and Community, at Kaltura, told Talkin’ Cloud. “I believe that biggest shift we’re seeing in the past 24 months with regards to open source is the rise of the commercial open source software.”

He continued: “Kaltura and MongoDB are two great examples for that model, where the companies offer robust enterprise-grade open source platforms under dual-license, which enables enterprise customers to enjoy the benefits of both worlds; the freedom and transparency of the open source model, and the SLAs, indemnifications, and trust establishment of the commercial engagement. This change in state of mind and market perceptions is what I believe contributes the most to the increase in adoption.”

Like early adopters, enterprises have discovered the benefits open source provides: Lower cost, flexibility, and ease of use, plus access to a larger group of potential developers, either internally or externally. As security threats increase, proponents view open source as a more viable alternative to commercial options, since open source develops rapidly and often is more proactive than reactive. Indeed, 72 percent of respondents cited the large number of people reviewing open source code as one reason the software was more secure, the Black Duck study discovered.

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“[Enterprises have ] freedom to choose vendors, freedom to customize and extend, transparency and trust as you’re no longer buying a black-box, but an open book, and the power of supportive communities,” added Kaltura’s Babin. Kaltura offers open source video solutions to clients such as Nestle (NSRGY), Walmart (WMT) and the University of Virginia.

By using open source, enterprises can attract the best and brightest engineers and coders, wrote Dion Almaer, vice president of engineering at WalmartLabs Mobile, on a ToDo Group blog. A company’s “use of and creation of open source are recruiting tools,” Almaer said.”When you interview with a team that has open source at its core you can hack together on issues in the queue and really get a feel for things. It is a fantastic advantage.”

Others, however, consider open source as less secure, and more costly to maintain and support. To address these concerns, enterprises often standardize on a particular set of open source solutions, working with partners, internal IT, or industry assocations to increase compatibility and reduce support overhead.

In February, for example, heavy-hitters such as GE, IBM, Capgemini, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions (VZW) disclosed a pact to form the Open Data Platform (ODP) to promote big data technologies based on open source software from the Apache Hadoop ecosystem. By providing access to a tested reference core of Apache Hadoop, Apache Ambari, and other Apache source artifacts, the group expects to create a “test once, use everywhere” platform.

“The Open Data Platform will foster compatibility and interoperability that will accelerate innovation and adoption of new data-driven solutions,” said John Magee, chief marketing officer at GE Software, in a statement.

Cloud, in particular, is driving open source, good news for managed service providers and solution providers active in this space. Sixty-three percent of businesses surveyed by Black Duck use open source for cloud or virtualization; 57 percent turn to open source for content management; 53 percent tap this approach for mobile, while 51 percent prefer open source for security. Future open source hotspots could include collaboration, network management, and social media.

What’s not in doubt is the ongoing prevalence of open source in the enterprise. It may take organizational skills to manage so many potential moving parts and contributors, but open source attracts the best and brightest programming minds; offers too many competitive advantages across a growing spectrum of use cases, and delivers far too many quality results for enterprises to ignore.

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