Open source software found its beginnings as a free, counter offer to giants the likes of Microsoft and Oracle. Its driving purpose: to give people the freedom and flexibility of adapting their software solutions to their specific needs, without lock-in to fixed and, often expensive, license contracts.
Today, we’re seeing the same software giants ride the wave of popularity surrounding open source solutions, releasing portions of their code to users at no cost. Is this a generous gesture to help the cause or a more calculated attempt to get the developer community to offer up advice on how to improve their products? You can be the judge.
As Microsoft attempts to navigate its way through the Linux landscape, it is the smaller developers who possess the expertise and agility to pioneer more radical, disruptive solutions across the board — in terms of customisation, pricing, integration, interoperability, and so on — and to truly accelerate innovation in the field.
What is the value-add of open source software?
Increased security. Critics will claim that open source offers no security guarantee, but there’s no denying that open source software offers the most secure options on the market today. Indeed, Linus’s Law says it all: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Flaws and security holes in open source code are identified and fixed more quickly thanks to the expertise of a large and very active development community dedicated to regularly reviewing the code.
Enhanced customisation features. With proprietary software, you’re constrained to work around what you’re given. Open source tools enable users to build quality, nuanced solutions that are entirely adaptable to their unique needs in terms of functionality, interoperability, scalability and security.
Take the newly launched Voxivo cloud phone system as an example. Built on open source foundations, including Asterisk, the world’s most popular open source communications toolkit. Asterisk allows VoIP experts to create telephony applications for IP PBXs, Hosted VoIP Gateways and Conference Servers. Foehn developers were able to eliminate the complexity of phone system management and promote a powerful intuitive user experience with total control over the system’s underlying programming — a product innovation that would have been stunted by the inherent limits of a proprietary approach. Even though Asterisk based, open source phone systems or contact centres might seem complex, Foehn have made open source communications useable for business today with a constant innovation roadmap that surpasses any proprietary system.
This open-source DNA also means that Foehn can plan and publish an extensive development roadmap of innovative features and can implement those features in the most secure and seamless manner.
Strengthened support. Again, the naysayers will say that tech support for open source software is limited because of the underlying idea that once you’ve adopted the code, you’re on your own in terms of hosting, customisation and troubleshooting. However, each piece of open source software comes with its own vibrant communities of support and, for businesses who require more assistance, there are open source support packages available at prices that still fall far under those of proprietary vendors.
Often, businesses will opt for a lower-cost service solution built on open source software in order to benefit from both worlds. For example, Foehn has built its operations on an open source PBX telephony software platform called Asterisk. From there, the company built an intuitive suite of business oriented products for which they offer comprehensive service packages to ensure reduced deployment costs, increased agility and facilitated cross platform integration — so the customer benefits from the pros of open source coupled with an enhanced service offer, all at lower prices than those offered by larger, proprietary vendors.
Improved quality and innovation. Open source developers work to build a reputation for themselves within the community. This drives them to push the limits, constantly innovating to come up with new product features and enhancements — thousands of developers are in direct competition to drive up the quality of open source software.
Undeniably, one of the fastest growing technologies today, Blockchain technology — a distributed ledger technology that stores huge quantities of data across a computer network as opposed to in a localised server — is the fruit of an open source approach.
The OpenStack platform is yet another open source success story. A cloud operating system known for its flexible ecosystem, promotion of transparency and notable rapidity. Some of the largest software development and hosting companies are proponents of OpenStack as the future of cloud computing.
Uber and Lyft recently announced their own cloud-native, open-source software projects, Jaeger and Envoy, respectively. Jaeger aims to develop a scalable distributed tracing system for microservice-based architectures while Envoy hopes to create a resilient service mesh to render service-to-service communication safer, faster and more reliable.
Speaking of microservice-based architectures, there’s also been a growing following for the Docker open source project, which simplifies and accelerates, in a replicable fashion, the movement of code from development environments into production. Docker enables programmers to define the elements of a Linux container in code to be easily versioned, reproduced, shared and modified.
Open source technologies are also being leveraged to expand the scope of machine learning and artificial intelligence —intelligent solutions born from an open source approach are set to soon change the entire way we interact with systems.
Cost savings. SMEs can’t afford to let costly proprietary software eat into their bottom lines. Open source technology has the advantage of getting things done efficiently, effectively and more affordably. This means that small businesses are free and able to test tools and platforms according to their needs, at a low risk and without throwing away money.
All in all, if you decide to go for an open source solution, you’re going to benefit from better code, better fit to your company’s needs, and at a better price. And you wouldn’t be alone. The 2016 Future of Open Source Survey found that 78 per cent (of 1,300 surveyed businesses) apply open source software in at least part of their operations — double the number recorded in 2010 and an all-time high.
The possibilities for innovation are endless. Open source tools are continuously evolving to help your business save precious time and resources and systems like the Voxivo cloud phone system from Foehn. Foehn are a company delivering innovative hosted VoIP communications for business at exceptionally competitive prices. Are you ready to open your eyes to the business benefits delivered by open source communications?
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