Open source software landed more than thirty years ago, but over the past few years we have seen a tremendous growth in the open source software community, taking a stronger hold in the market in comparison to proprietary software (closed source software). Indeed, before proprietary software was a clear leader. However, the tendency is changing, as more and more CIO’s and CTO’s are moving towards open source. During 2018 we have seen many of the world’s top software companies recognize this phenomenon and have directly acquired various major open source companies. Some of the acquisitions announced last year were huge and were even placed in the top ten acquisitions ever made in the technology sector.
Without going into to depth, perhaps one of the reasons why open source is increasing so rapidly, is because it is being used aggressively within the top growth segments of the technology market; Cloud, IoT, AI, Big Data, Dev Ops, Containers, etc.. Additionally, it is foreseen that 2019 will be a year in which specific geographical markets where proprietary technology has traditionally maintained large market shares, will witness a strong influx of open source technology. Hence, this all seems to indicate that open source software is going to carry on expanding in 2019.
What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of open source software
The initial advantage of using open source software that will always spring to mind is that it is free. That’s a clear advantage. However, that is not whole cost of the project. The software is there to be worked on by the developers and that costs money. A proprietary software could be much more developed by the supplier, reducing all or part of the development costs that would need to be applied on a project. So when calculating costs, the whole cost scenario needs to be analyzed. Not just the cost of downloading the software.
2. Vendor lock-in
Open source software has no vendor lock-in which means that the code is available to all. The end user company and many other third party software developers have access to the code. This allows the end user freedom of movement to obtain plug-ins, third party software or even outsource project development to independent developers. A proprietary software makes the end user totally reliant on the software company and their specific network of partners.
Firstly, with open source software one is dependent on the community built around the open source software for support. If it is a large community support is easier. Certain open source suppliers do have a good network support, but they charge for this support. Again it all boils down different scenarios. For example, if you are using an open source software with a large user community of developers and the end user has highly qualified developers, support should not be an issue. However, this is not always the case.
Immediately one would think that open source software is less secure, because it’s not developed in a controlled environment and having the source code available to all, including hackers, security would be a disadvantage. This is true to a certain extent, but it’s not always the case. Some open source software companies claim to be more secure than proprietary software for various reasons. For example, if there is a large community of developers using open source software, then security flaws may be detected quickly and the solution is communicated to all developers via the community. Also, certain open source software companies claim that they have a network of whitehat hackers who contribute to detecting flaws before they become an issue to the end users.
Open source software does tend to be less user friendly than proprietary software, because in some cases it is more orientated towards high level developers and experts. As it’s free, open source software tends to have less manuals and information written by producers, which links onto what has already been said about support. In many cases usability can be better than closed source software.
Overall, it can be said that the advantages or disadvantage of open source software are not straight forward. They depend on various points as we have seen above; the size of the end user company, size of the project, technical knowledge of the end users’ developers and more. Before taking a decision on open source or proprietary software, an end user must make a thorough investigation in to what is available for their type of project on the market, their requirements and their developers.