Why Big companies are embracing open source?
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Gone are those days when open source software were used only by start-ups and small corporates. Today big companies are using and promoting open source software. Google, the internet search giant uses Linux(modified to cater its own needs) for most of its servers. Also Google is funding open source projects like chromium which forms the backbone of a popular chrome web browser from google. So we see that one of the biggest IT company is both using and contributing to open source. This change in outlook of big corporates towards the open source has not come overnight. There has been a long struggle for open source to make everyone believe that it is as good as (or even better) than its proprietary counterparts. Here in this article, we will discuss various reasons why big companies are embracing open source.
The cost factorYes, this is one of the most important factor that attract not only the small companies or start-up's but also the big corporates these days. The question here is that who would like to spend extra money if the same (or even better) software is available free of cost (or at a marginal cost). For example, if we take the example of Microsoft OS. One has to buy the OS for a good amount of money then over that one again has to buy good anti-virus and even after that the system does not seem much secure. Also, the closed source software come with a per CPU license and obviously, each license costs. Now imagine multi processor machines where only one CPU is dedicated for a licensed software, companies still have to pay the license fee for all the CPUs attached. This is sheer wastage of money. So, what's the point of spending so much money there when open source alternatives can provide the same or even better functionality and that too for no or very little cost? So we see that the cost factor is one of the major attractions of OSS.
SecurityIn today's digital world when servers and websites of top notch technology companies are repeatedly in news for getting hacked, security has become the prime concern while selecting a software. The open source software that were once discarded as being less secure are being preferred today on security aspect and what more, many of the OSS(open source software) are being considered as technically superior to their proprietary counterparts. Many surveys and statistics have shown a considerable increase in use of OSS in areas where security has been a prime concern.
Does that mean OSS are near to perfect? No, absolutely not. The main reason for them to be more secure is the number of contributors. If you compare a team of 50 talented programmers with a team of a 1000 talented programmers, then whom do you think will be able to produce a better quality product? Yes, you are right. The number of resource contributing to a product makes a difference and in case of popular OSS, the contributors are definitely very high.
The other reason for being secure is the code being open source. Anybody can identify a bug or loophole and can quickly fix it. The open source code combined with the fact that large number of contributing developers prepares an ecosystem where bugs are fixed at a quicker speed than they are exploited. This results in a secure software.
The big corporates now know that there is little security transparency while using proprietary software as compared to OSS. More on this aspect is covered under my article on open source security.
This is something that the OSS speak on the top of their voice and in the face of closed source software. I don't mean to say that proprietary software are of inferior quality but when compared with their popular OSS counterpart, they somehow loose their charm in terms quality. This win is attributed to large number of open source contributors that give their heart and soul (and of course mind ) to their contribution. Also, the same users when act as reviewers, spot and fix most of the bugs in the software. This definitely increases the quality of product.
Customization and Audit
This again is one of the very useful aspect of an OSS. Anybody using it can modify the source code as per the needs and usage. Google has already benefited from this aspect by modifying the Linux kernel for its Android OS. In fact there are various applications that run on Android which require some tweaks in Android source code. So we see that, you don't have to fall back to the vendor for any and every change that you want in the software. This saves time as well as cost. On the same lines, if the source code for a software is available, any organization can quickly set up a small team to audit and review its code to make sure that there is nothing unwanted or buggy in the code. Though there is support available for most of the popular OSS but big corporates always like to have the code verified by their own professionals. So we see that the OSS provides this kind of platform.
Usually for any popular OSS, there is a sea of support available on internet. There are mailing lists, wikis, experienced users, official support staff, updates, patches etc available very easily. So this large area of support provides a quick platform to get your queries resolved within no time. This is in wide contrast with the closed source software for which there is usually a single small team available doing all the maintenance and support task. So we see that in this area too, the OSS has a upper hand now.
To conclude, we see that OSS stand ahead of their closed source counterparts in all the above aspects.
If you want, you can also go through a nice little research paper on Organizational Adoption of Open Source Software that I found on internet.