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Not so long ago, renowned commercial software vendors expressed their concern about the spreading open source movement calling it a destroyer of software and intellectual property businesses. Now we see big IT corporations keep increasing their presence on the open source scene.
Source code stands behind software just like design blueprints or know-how information behind the manufacture of any highly engineered product, which usually constitute a commercial secret.
In terms of software development, “open source” is software, the source code of which is intentionally made public so that anyone could examine, copy, and modify it in contrast to “closed source”, where only its authors possess exclusive control over software source code.
In a broad sense, “open source” refers to something, design of which is publicly available for anyone to view, share, and contribute.
More than that, today the open source becomes a new paradigm reaching far beyond the technologies. It is called “the open source way” – a specific approach to collaboration in many fields like manufacturing, science, education, health, etc. The open source projects are community-oriented and built upon the principles of open exchange, transparency, rapid prototyping, open participation, and meritocracy.
Who Governs the Open Source Domain?
Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative organizations laid the path and created basic guidelines spreading the open source ideas, values and principles. Along with many prominent in the computer world persons they gave birth to the open source movement worldwide.
Now the world largest open source contributing organizations like Linux Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, Debian, Wikimedia Foundation and many others maintain their commitment to open source principles.
But except for general guidelines and open source community culture, there is no outer formal structure to supervise or control the open source projects. Anyone can start and manage an open source project in his own way. The only formality stands out at the stage of licensing.
Intellectual property is protected by the copyright law by default. To release users from the liability special licenses are applied.
Much a Do about Licensing
Before early 1970s computer programs and their source code were not subject to copyright in the US. The software was kept a commercial secret and marketed being embedded in the hardware. On the other hand, academic institutions and programming communities shared their software and source code for scientific or learning purposes. Only in 1974, the US Commission on New Technological Uses ruled out that these works must be copyrightable equally to literary works, thus beginning the era of software licensing.
There is a slight conceptual difference between open source and free software, which can be expressed in this concentrated way: not all open source software is free, and not all free software is open source.
There is a number of licenses under which open source and free software are released, for example, Apache License, BSD license, GNU General Public License, GNU Lesser General Public License, MIT License, Eclipse Public License and Mozilla Public License.
The legal implications lying in the differences between the mentioned licenses are not clear at a glance without getting into their thorough examination and comparison. The wording of these licenses is available in the Internet and always included in the source code files.
While copyright licenses imply certain prohibitions, copyleft licenses express permissions to reproduce, modify and distribute an open source piece provided that all derivative works would inherit the same license conditions. Certain licenses allow commercial use of the open source materials.
Open Source Projects are Gaining Popularity
Besides the open and closed source codes and related license implications, the major difference between the open source and commercial software lies in the way it is created. The open source development is extremely collaborative inviting and encouraging everyone interested to participate and contribute.
Enthusiasts are proud to take part in a significant open source project, which can draw thousands of people all over the world into collaboration process. Thus it creates opportunities never available to commercial development. Due to massive contributors’ participation the software development life cycle (SDLC) becomes much shorter and the resulted product contains less shortcomings and security vulnerabilities. As Linus’s Law, named in honor of the creator of Linux operating system Linus Torvalds, says: “Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow.”
The most outstanding feature of open source projects is that people are united around  . It is about a strong ethical aspect incorporating transparent collaboration and willingness to share. The open source projects provide an opportunity to improve the world by the united efforts of all its participants. This way open source becomes a modern philosophy, collaboration model, a way of thinking and acting altogether.
Open Source Software: Who is it good for?
One might think that open source software is of value only to computer geeks interested in playing with the code. Programmers and common users all benefit from open source developments. In fact, any users of computerized devices deal with open source software even without knowing it. For instance, almost all software components the Internet is build of are open source. Other examples represent popular browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, or Android operating system managing mobile phones and tablets.
Example of popular open source software
These are implementations people may use automatically without realizing what technologies stand behind them. But many advanced users, once in a while, have to make a choice between installing proprietary or open source software on their machines. This decision may be based upon cost, functionality, convenience or personal preference considerations.
Open source software is popular not only among individuals, but businesses especially. It is ideal for startups sparing them a good chunk of expenses, which can be invested into their mission-critical activity. The free to use software can be anything ranging from a platform, an operating system to desktop or web applications providing emerging businesses with a prompt start. The cost of using proprietary software on hundreds or thousands of computers can be crucial for a budget of even a well-established enterprise.
Moreover, there is a variety of open source solutions designed specifically for enterprises. To name but a few, these are servers, DBMS engines, storage systems, backup and recovery systems, multiple applications like CMS, ERP, CRM, e-commerce, accounting, email and calendaring, etc., whether desktop or cloud-based, to cater for any grade of enterprise infrastructure. For instance, the most popular DBMS, in particular MySQL, PostgreSQL and MongoDB, are open source. Same popular is an open source Apache web server.
Data storage is always an issue for enterprise due to its tendency to grow exponentially. To leverage storage costs, open source offers rock solid data storage solutions, e.g. ownCloud, Pydio, Openfiler, FreeNAS, and others.
But no matter which open source software an enterprise may choose, the advantage is that with minor adjustments in the code it can be further customized to fit one’s current or future needs. This freedom opens a way to continuous innovation and improvement.
Even enterprises seeking for extremely individualized solutions tailored to their specific needs can benefit from the open source. Using ready-made open source platforms, plugins, libraries, etc., as building blocks in the development process may reduce the development time and budget dramatically.
Infopulse Use Case
3x Less Time-to-Market and Cost than Originally Planned with Open Source Development
Development of an innovative platform for online cargo logistics, incl.:
- Providing detailed system documentation;
- Analyzing the market to assess the product’s value and how it should work;
- Delivering the platform on a short deadline.
Building a complex system for the client, incl.:
- Full software development life cycle services;
- Deployment of infrastructures for development, testing, and preproduction;
- Microservices architecture to make the solution flexible and scalable.
Cordova framework, Java, AngularJS, Bootstrap, Jenkins, Maven, Docker, PostGIS, PostgreSQL
3 Most Popular Reasons to Use Open Source
But it is not only cost that makes individuals and businesses opt for open source solutions. They may have other advantages outweighing commercial applications in the categories of localization, security, perpetuity, interoperability, etc.
The most often mentioned three reasons why people prefer open source over proprietary software are shown in the table below.
Despite the idea that open source software may be more vulnerable to hackers or malware attacks due to its source code being visible to all, in reality in most cases it turns out to be more secure than its closed source analogs. A good example can be Linux OS compared to popular proprietary operating systems: it is a way less sensitive to security threats and much more stable in its operation. The reason standing behind it lies in the fact that open source projects involve much more independent contributors and code reviewers to eliminate errors and bugs associated with both security and integrity of the software. The open source developments imply by design passing extensive penetration tests based on the idea that the source code is available to attackers.
2. Learning & Developing
Programmers learn from open source systems. Due to the source code accessibility they can easily study it to learn good programming practices and solutions. They also have an opportunity to share their work with other learners and professionals, inviting them for comment or advice. Moreover, nowadays programmers, whether experienced developers or students, use software developer’s kits (SDK), frameworks and libraries, which are open source, to build their software much faster.
For IT professionals, open source means more control over the software. They can inspect and modify the code to make sure the program makes exactly what they want. Non-professionals benefit from it too, because they can use it for any purposes or intents without limitation.
Going Non-Profit: Open Source Survival Kit
It would not be correct to think that open source developments vest no interest in making money at all. The fact that multiple enthusiastic contributors join a project for free does not mean that the work is done by itself without cost.
The project organizers put tremendous effort in the idea, architecture, design and coding of the first prototype build before inviting the helping hands. Further, organizing the community around the project is not an easy task too. Moreover, the outside contributors work in times and so much as they may decide, therefore a dedicated fulltime team is a must to keep the development process up and running.
Besides open source evangelists, many IT businesses ranging from small ones to the biggest market operators launch or participate in open source projects. One of the business models allowing gaining in them is based on brand promotion. High-profile companies are willing to be associated with prominent open source projects to promote their brand and increase the reputation capital.
Another way to benefit from running an open source project despite its software free distribution is charging for dedicated technical support and related services.
There is a lot of other benefits in going the open source way. The major borderline runs between creating open source software and using the one created by others. This gives two different perspectives, both beneficial in many ways. To name but a few are reputational and brand awareness gains, opportunities for cross-promotion, crowd funding, IPO, ICO, blockchain implementations, etc.
Back to the Source
Open source movement gains momentum. A great many of individuals and businesses follow the open source way gathering growing support on the global level. Many governmental institutions worldwide make their choice in favor of open source solutions. Vibrant examples are Drupal and WordPress content management systems (CMS), on which more and more public organizations build their websites. Multiple web-based office applications tend to be open source, e.g. Google Docs.
However, there is no evidence that open source software is going to oust proprietary developments; they would rather co-exist propelling each other. There are industries where commercial software plays a leading role, for instance, banking, industrial design (CAD systems) or video processing. Another strong part of it is its bearing much higher legal liability for damages incurred due to its failure to perform as promised.
And the last but not least, in most cases employing open source as a “construction set” vs. starting development from the scratch is a tradeoff between reducing cost and getting exactly what was desired.
Staying Open, Staying Resourceful
Respecting the values of open source communities, Infopulse professionals have implemented over 3,000 projects engaging both customary and open source developments. We keep staying open and resourceful to provide our customers with the best solution or service of its kind.
With a strong competence in Linux open-source applications and libraries, from the system to driver level, including embedded engineering or blockchain systems, we offer state-of-the-art solutions wound up around open-source stack, e.g. IoT, SSO systems, billing systems, and more.
Open-source code is a perfect ingredient to blend with versatile pre-engineered models providing a fast track from design to customized implementation of new products for further integration with your infrastructure and systems.
With a vast hands-on experience in open source software development, customization, seamless integration with customer systems, we offer our expertise and knowledge to our customers worldwide.