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How open-source can be the true catalyst for digital change
By Peter Lees, Chief Technologist, SUSE Asia-Pacific
Many organisations are adopting agile methodology and the related concepts of DevOps and continuous integration to satisfy the need for speedy time-to-market, yet the challenge for IT organisations is in providing the systems needed to support these approaches when up to 70 percent of the resources are spent just keeping the lights on1. This is where open-source technology can help. While open-source software itself is not at all new, it has become the mainstream way of developing innovative ideas, with industry giants such as Google, Intel, IBM, and even Microsoft embracing open-source as a way to accelerate development and spread the adoption of the technologies – based mostly on the foundation of that quintessential open source project: GNU/Linux. The freely-available nature of the Linux OS provides a level playing field for involvement, and the free GNU tools (compilers, libraries, etc.) also lower barriers for new developers. Open source development means more eyes and more ideas are brought to a project: performance and security issues have more chance of being observed and resolved, as individual developers seek to develop personal credentials, meaning little opportunity to sweep problems “under the carpet” to meet a deadline – one risk of closed, proprietary code. Open development also means that users aren’t locked-in to one vendor’s technology, or face the risk of price hikes, or of a product being “killed” due to an acquisition or other business change. The challenge for IT managers using open source technology is how to support it – especially how to support it whilst maintaining existing systems. The widely-available nature of open-source makes it very cost-effective to acquire, but savings can be quickly eroded if an organisation must employ their own experts to integrate & maintain those technologies, and can be at risk if those key employees leave the company (or even want to take a vacation). That’s where open-source software companies such as SUSE come in. Over 25 years ago the Germany-based software company produced the first enterprise-ready version of Linux, and has been building and integrating “infrastructure software” for enterprises ever since. This longevity means that even though the technologies it produces are cutting-edge, the engineering and support is solid and reliable. Much of this success is due to the experienced development team, which makes up for over 50 percent of the company’s employees. The egalitarian nature of open-source development means that an individual developer’s personal credibility is extremely important in making a difference in the direction of an upstream project, and since SUSE boasts some of the most experienced developers in the industry, their influence can be seen across a wide range of projects, meaning the real-world scenarios observed in customers’ workloads are considered when making changes or improvements. The message, then, for CIO’s wanting help with digital transformation, is to look to the open-source world for reactive, adaptive, and innovative technologies that will make it possible to satisfy consumer expectations at a price point that is affordable. This can be done with the help of an experienced open-source partner who can provide the enterprise-grade support necessary to provide the stability needed for a reliable business.