Open source: the default choice

When it comes to open source software, the question that needs to be asked today is not which businesses are using open source – but rather which businesses are not.

So says Obsidian SystemsMuggie van Staden, a 17-year veteran of the open source world, who says that for many businesses today, open source software is the default choice for backend systems.

Yossi Hasson, MD of Linux provider Synaq, echoes Van Staden’s thoughts, saying that over the past five years the debate over open source has changed from open source versus proprietary, to which open source applications are best for the job at hand.

“Open source and Linux have a clear place in the enterprise today, particularly in high-volume, high-reliability transaction environments,” says Hasson. “Companies such as MTN are today running 300 to 400 servers with Linux and others such as Discovery also have massive Linux implementations.”

“Much of the focus, and success, of open source software over the past few years has been in the datacentre and on mainframes” says Van Staden. “On the front-end, open source desktop growth has been slow,” he says.

“Apart from a handful of big Linux deployments, desktop Linux in the corporate sector has been relatively quiet.”

In many senses the era of the one-desktop-environment is over. In its place are an array of end-user devices that have to be catered for.

Multiple access devices

In today’s business environment, says Hasson, end users will use a diversity of devices to access their business information and so the datacentre systems need to be able to service all of these.

“Web standards are driving growth,” says Hasson. “It’s no longer just about integration at the OS level, but about supporting a diversity of devices in the enterprise”

Van Staden agrees; “Business owners may not like it but increasingly the front-end devices that need to be supported are being driven by users. Notebooks, iPads and smartphones will be brought into the work environment and these have to be accounted for.”

Businesses may not like this, but they will increasingly have to cater for these devices with their virtualisation strategies.

For Hasson and Van Staden, one of the key benefits of open source software for enterprises is the absence of vendor lock-in. The ability to be able to choose from a range of IT service providers without being wholly reliant on a single provider gives businesses the flexibility they want.

Data access is also a key benefit of open standards says Van Staden. “Open standards guarantee that enterprises always have access to their own data, and that they aren’t locked into a particular proprietary format that makes it hard to change providers or systems.

For Hasson scalability is a major benefit of open source. “Open source offers businesses the option to scale their infrastrucuture quickly and reliably using low-cost hardware, which leads to significant cost savings.”

Looking ahead

For both Hasson and Van Staden, “big data” is one of the future areas of growth for open source software.

“We’re entering a period where enterprises are managing huge amounts of data, volumes that go well beyond the capabilities of databases such as MySQL,” says Hasson. “There are a number of open source project focused on big data mangement and these will become increasingly prominent in the coming years.”

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Open source: the default choice