4 reasons companies say yes to open source

Open source isn't just about saving money -- enterprises are adopting it to develop applications faster, with higher quality components.

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Forrester analyst Hammond confirms that open source's speed advantage is making it more popular in enterprise IT development. "If you ask a developer how they're going to handle a specific project, they can respond that they don't have to buy specialized hardware, because they can run it on Linux. They can use an open-source development framework, and they can develop what someone needs specifically."

Open source also brings a lot of "elasticity" to the process of spinning up new resources, Hammond says. "You don't have to ask 'Do I have a license?' or 'Do I have to buy more software?'" he says. That's why there's a high correlation between cloud-based and open-source software, he points out -- both provide a scalability and flexibility that companies haven't had in the past.

Open source mitigates business risk

Another, perhaps unsung, benefit to using open-source tools, and thereby reducing dependence on a single or multiple vendors, is that the open-source option may reduce business risk. Milinkovich notes that when the company developing TOPCASED, a development tool for embedded systems, was acquired, "the developer stopped working on it." So the companies that used it and loved it, notably Airbus, banded together to fund other developers to continue supporting it.

Vendors come and go, and commercial priorities change, whereas a community's focus is more constant. "The openness and transparency of open source mitigates a lot of risk," says Milinkovich. "Whether a company is big or small, it'll stop developing code if it's no longer commercially viable, and you no longer have access to the source code and repositories. If you can actually get a vibrant community built up around your code, it's much more resilient than a strictly commercial enterprise."

Gerald Pfeiffer, director of product management for Nuremberg-based SUSE, which offers enterprise Linux, believes that open source is thriving for all these reasons.

"People are reaping cost benefits by using open source, but that's not the No. 1 priority. It's also the avoidance of lock-in, the ability to customize, the ability to have a better feel of what you're paying for. It's the combination of all that," Pfeiffer says. "You're sharing development costs with other people, so you get more diversity and more independence than from a single vendor."

Frequent contributor Howard Baldwin last wrote for Computerworld about how to get a job in financial IT.

This article, "4 Reasons Companies Say Yes to Open Source," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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