Service Provider Cloud

What People Don't Get About Open Source

Open source is making its way into the mainstream, driven by Linux, OpenStack, SDN, and other cloud, networking and computing. But a lot of people still have misconceptions about the open source process and how it fits into business.

Misconception: Open source isn't fit for business. I'm surprised to hear this one is still floating around. Sure, top software executives including Bill Gates called open source "socialism," "Communism," and "cancer" -- but that was more than ten years ago, and many of those same companies have now embraced open source, as do most of the world's leading businesses. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) aggressively supports open source. Even Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) runs Linux on the Azure cloud. And AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is aggressively adopting open source for its SDN and cloud platforms. Those guys ain't exactly the Communist Party. (See Cisco Looks to Open Source for 'Badder Ass' Internet, AT&T Offers 'Mature' ECOMP as Open Source MANO and Microsoft: Open Source Means Meeting Customers Where They Are.)

The reality is that open source is just another way of licensing software. Companies can use open source to share development on non-strategic assets, reducing costs and improving value for everyone.

Misconception: Open source is cheap. To be sure, open source is often significantly less expensive than proprietary technology. But if you want carrier-grade performance, you're going to have to pay for carrier-grade support. Open source advocates have an expression they like: "Free as in speech, not as in beer. "

Misconception: Open source is ready for prime time as-is. The community releases of open source infrastructure software are ready to be used in a development, lab, or educational setting, but not in production. It needs to be made robust, with reliability, security and manageability enhanced and assured.

Opens source is the engine and chassis. It's not the whole jalopy.

Misconception: Open source lets you fire your vendors. To be sure, this is not a misconception for some companies. The biggest hypercloud companies, service providers and some enterprises have big IT teams highly trained in DevOps and the other skills needed to turn open source into production technology, and keep it running. But most companies will need to hire partners to do that work for them, or at least to help with that work.

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Misconception: Proprietary software is better because there's a company standing behind it. Companies such as Microsoft, SAP and Oracle stand behind their products. But who stands behind open source software? Some nebulous "community?"

Well, yes, there's the community -- but there is also an industry of companies that productize and support open source software, including Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), Mirantis Inc. and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) (you've heard of IBM, right?). If you run into a problem with open source software you can't solve yourself, you can call a vendor and get help, same as with proprietary software.

Open source requires new business models and fresh perspectives on technology. To find out more about how you can use open source for business, sign up for Light Reading's Upskill U online university now. (See Upskill U Kicks Off Open Source Courses.)

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— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

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