Open source software continues to gain adherents. The solutions that were previously embraced by only a small, select number of developers are now widely used by organizations of all kinds. This trend shows no sign of stopping. On the contrary, the number of businesses leveraging open source solutions in some capacity is poised to grow, as firms turn to this technology to increase both their profits and innovation.
SFGate reported that many Silicon Valley companies are now looking to open source software as a means of gaining competitive advantages and, consequently, greater profit margins.
For example, Facebook uses open source to make its code available to outside programmers, who can potentially identify security vulnerabilities and suggest useful innovations for the social media giant.
"Open source is part of Facebook's DNA," said Avery Ching, a software engineer with Facebook, speaking at a recent technology conference, the news source reported. "[Mark Zuckerberg] didn't build his own server at Harvard. He used open source software."
Ching went to explain that as Facebook grew, open source operations became more difficult to implement. However, the company is working to reverse this trend.
"[W]e recently took some serious strides to making open source more prominent at Facebook. We're getting bug fixes for things we haven't really seen yet," said Ching, according to SFGate.
Facebook is hardly the only Silicon Valley firm to reaffirm or embrace the open source philosophy. While not a software issue, Tesla recently announced it would make its own technology available to industry rivals in an effort to expand the electric car market. This reflects a growing consensus among startups that open source solutions, rather than proprietary software and patents, are in their best interests.
"Open source is becoming a thing that startups do," said Ryan Singer, co-founder of bitcoin security firm CryptoCorp, the news source reported. "They will never pay licensing fees because they can't afford it."
Open source innovation
Beyond these financial considerations, businesses are also turning to open source software to hasten and expand their innovation capabilities, as Beta News contributor Fred Simon recently argued.
"When it comes to software development, it will be increasingly difficult to integrate, develop and extend closed source software – and extremely costly compared to open source alternatives," Simon wrote. "Companies have come to understand the importance of open source and the key role it plays in developing innovative software today."
Simon offered Twitter as a key example of this potential. He noted that Twitter open sourced its messaging platform. This helped to spur on innovation among many other companies in the field of messaging.
"It's very difficult for companies to develop innovative software without [open source], and companies now understand the rapid, progressive development it enables," Simon concluded. "As industries and technologies continue to evolve at a faster pace, closed source companies will be dead in the water if they aren't leveraging the open source community and the projects they're working on."
Making the most of open source
As all of these examples demonstrate, open source approaches to software and other areas can provide significant boosts to businesses. However, it is important to note that open source is only a valuable resource when leveraged properly.
A key aspect of effective open source solutions is high-quality technical support. Open source packages can have configuration issues and bugs just like commercial software plus the additional burden of trying to understand multiple or conflicting licensing conditions. Expert support and advice can alleviate the cost and schedule impacts of fixing these issues so firms can focus on innovation and delivery.
• See how open source technical support helped ensure the on-time delivery of a secure financial services application
• Read how commercial-grade open source support can help your team