In the 2022 State of Open Source Report, a survey of businesses that leverage open-source software, 77% of respondents said that they increased the use of open-source software in their organizations over the last 12 months, and 36.5% indicated that they increased that use significantly. The pandemic, subsequent disruptions, and mass shifts to remote work meant digital transformation and virtual connections became paramount to businesses staying afloat. As such, open-source software played and continues to have an important role in how companies of all sizes conduct business today.
Lay of the Land
The term “open source” refers to community-driven software, publicly accessible through an active, supportive software community. The type and purpose of this software ranges and provides the ability for software developers to modify, enhance and use software to achieve their functional business needs. The open-source community offers a platform of like-minded developers and adopters who can help bring projects to fruition through community-driven and solutions-focused advancement. Defined by Open Source Initiative, the distribution terms of open-source software must include free redistribution, access to well-publicized source code, a license that allows for derived works and redistribution, integrity served to the author’s source code, no discrimination against persons, groups or fields, and a non-restrictive license that is technology-neutral, and not specific to a product.
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Open-Source Software Is Good for Business
Open-source software serves countless purposes for businesses that adopt and leverage these free tools. For organizations to seize these opportunities for growth, it’s vital to understand how to use this platform to take their teams and processes to the next level. Here are a few examples:
- The software and hardware costs are lower. That’s because developers don’t have to build software from the ground up.
- Solutions are flexible and scalable. Using the software, developers can make changes to meet needs for businesses of all sizes across many industries.
- A responsive community of developers, users, and vendors offers enhanced information security. Stakeholders can vet, identify and fix security issues in ways that private software may not catch.
- License management is easy. It allows initial software to be downloaded multiple times or for different team members, with clear precedent and transparency about which licenses have worked for certain open-source communities.
- It is a proven-effective tool. Considering, that 92% of IT leaders surveyed in Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source Report 2022 feel enterprise open source solutions are important to addressing their COVID-related challenges, open source has proven itself as a significant player in crisis management and shared solutions.
- Open-source software offers vetted processes. It provides clear processes for the maturity stage, so small or mid-size entities experiencing growth have a roadmap for success. For example, Walmart Labs, the retailer’s research and development unit, has open-sourced Electrode, meaning relevant businesses can leverage the same application platform used to power Walmart.com.
From a Developer’s Perspective
It’s easy to see how access to free, regulated, collaborative software can stimulate business growth for adopters. But what about the technologists who offer their expertise and services to the open-source community? There are multiple ways to generate real growth and revenue as an open-source developer:
- While open-source software offers free licenses, developers can charge advanced or specified licensing fees when specific needs arise.
- Developers can offer hosted versions of software that enable adopters to avoid the hassle of servers.
- Paid support, courses, and continuing education can provide adopters the ability to learn more about their software depending on their needs while providing experts the means to earn their unique knowledge.
- OpenCore is a common open-source concept meaning the core product is free, but there is a charge for add-ons such as expanded software functions, number of users, new features, or specialized processes for specific products or industries.
- Open-source developers often offer their code for free, establishing expertise and brand presence, but profit as businesses by selling other products. For example, widespread open-source projects such as the Apache HTTP Server Project or Mozilla Firefox are so rooted in internet use they maintain operational costs and growth through donations.
The Future Is Now
Headlines may claim that open-source software is the future, but really, it is the present. Many web, mobile, and cloud solutions are already founded on open-source infrastructure, and the adoption of open source is growing exponentially. Some organizations might mistakenly think this growth is limited to big business. Yet, open source aims to benefit small businesses just as much, if not more, than companies with plenty of resources. In fact, 41% of small organizations have an open-source strategy. Organizations that leverage open-source software, understand its benefits, and actively wield the technology maximize those benefits and create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
About the Writer
Poonam Garg is an engineering leader with 12+ years’ experience in IT. She is a speaker at many tech-industry events, an advocate for women in technology, and an active member of the global Women in Technology (WIT) Network. She holds an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota.