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don't be afraid of your freedom.

it's nice to be free.

Community, now there’s a word. And it is a key word to anyone who works with open source software (OSS). But did you know that this collaborative development, this opportunity to design, this freedom to innovate and distribute in a community through the open source model has saved consumers around $60 billion per year? Why? Dead simple, those ‘independent’ open source masterminds that make up those small, collaborative groups with big ideas have produced masses of amazing designs and creations, that if one company were to produce the equivalent, the end result would undoubtedly cost the earth and would take five times as long to achieve.

the strategic marketing paradigm of open source is a massively-parallel drunkard's walk filtered by a darwinistic process.

Bruce Perens- Open-source 'God'.

There’s even an open source free software movement, Definition and Initiative (OSI) and as prescriptive as they may appear, fundamentally they’re all about outlining the freedom there is to use the source codes, the license and to distribute and to modify. The autonomy to essentially do exactly what the heck it is clever programmers and developers wish to do with it. It’s pretty mind-blowing reviewing the list of existing free Open-source packages seemingly from almost every walk of life, from Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and Data Mining to home-brewing, 2d animation and bible study tools! The mind boggles with what the open source community can next design. Can substantial money actually be made from all this creative collaboration, or is that not the point?

For some it is the entire point. Red Hat has dominated where others have failed as it has made bucket loads of $’s by successfully selling off some of its creations and therefore became widely known as the “only billion-dollar open source vendor” for a long time– until now. Enter Pivotal with its open source Platform-as-a-Service offering, Cloud Foundry, it banked them more money in its first year in the history of everything that is open source.

Overall, some say that the cost to benefits comparison is not always easily proven with the open source model and whilst it is indeed nice to be free, this does not (of course) mean that there is zero cost of ownership. Factors including support, functionality, features and integration to make open source software ready for the enterprise may very quickly, very clearly, out-weigh any costs saved up-front.

And the fact remains it is still largely hard to earn a healthy buck from an open source project, as Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady points out, “the open source development benefits far outweigh its revenue potential.”

So how is all this freedom affecting old school proprietary software, how is it fairing against it’s free-loving foil?

i'm free, to do what I want, any old time.

to be able to choose between proprietary software packages is to be able to choose your master. freedom means not having a master. and in an area of computing, freedom means not using proprietary software

Richard M.Stallman, The 'Godfather' of Open-Source

There’s been an interesting development in the world of enterprise software, whereas previously tech stalwarts such as Oracle, Microsoft and SAP would once have programmers, developers and enterprises knocking down their door, asking if they had software that could do what we needed it to do for them. Now? More than likely, they’re free to check out whether or not it exists on Github first, and go to the enterprise software gurus second. But is that the right way around?

According to open source virtuous such as Tom Lane, he thinks check with the open source community first, as the only time proprietary software maybe the best bet is if a development case is too small or niche and the barrier to entry for development is too high, or a company’s IP must be kept private.

Equally, enterprises require robust support and fixes. Take any large organisation with Big Data requirements; they simply can’t rely on the community forum for the answers to their mission-critical quandaries. Some argue that the bottom line is that you know what you’re getting with closed sourced software. Whilst others contend without the creative liberty that open source software allows, inventiveness and the most original concepts and creations would simply shrivel up, and where would we all be as a result!

There’s even global debates rumbling on around open source versus closed source endeavours and even of the most successful open source projects, the OpenStack Foundation, is more fragmented than the Android market with proprietary and non-interoperable distros from Red Hat, IBM, HP, and others.

However, even with all these creative juices flowing around, a proprietary software was the most used, most discussed and the fastest growing database last year. Beating off the “NoSQL” databases that appear to have dominated some-what such as MongoDB, Cassandra and Redis, through analysis from rating systems,  old school Oracle seemed to have beat the new uninhibited contenders, hands down.

Yet this all doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion for the open source community, as it is well documented that open source is not just a development methodology but also a cultural phenomenon that is showing no signs of abating.

don't be afraid of your freedom.

According to ‘The Future of Open Source Survey’ 2016 survey, a significant amount of companies around the world are taking all this freedom pretty dam seriously, and it’s not slowing down:

• 67% of respondents report actively encouraging developers to engage in and contribute to open source projects.
• 65% percent of companies are contributing to open source projects.
• One in three companies has a full-time resource dedicated to open source projects.
• 59% of respondents participate in open source projects to gain competitive edge
• More than 65% leverage open source software (OSS) to speed application development
• More than 55% leverage OSS for production infrastructure

With this development autonomy providing some new challenges:

• 50% of companies surveyed have no formal policy for choosing open source code
• 47% percent have no formal process in place to track open source code
• Nearly one-third of companies have no process for identifying, tracking or remediating known open source vulnerabilities

Some even go so far as to say they think there is a lot of money to be made by open source vendors in the next 2-3 years specifically around software-as-a-service, custom development and services/support offerings.

No big surprise, then, that scholars Casson and Ryan pointed out several policy-based reasons for the adoption of open source and its value proposition when compared to most proprietary setups, in the following categories:

• Security
• Affordability
• Transparency
• Perpetuity
• Interoperability
• Flexibility

And whilst this is all good news for the future of open source projects and developers, it would be remiss to overlook that some have leveraged the dramatic rise in open source for profitability over community, by restricting or locking down licenses whilst still remaining ‘open.’

Essentially, to be true to the underpinning principles of ‘open source’, the key lies with the community. In its freedom to ‘do’, create, design, collaborate and innovate with software that has zero restrictions. For they may lock down our app, but they will never take our freedom!