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Four misconceptions about open source technology - Acquia

11 Jul 2019
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Article by Acquia Asia Pacific and Japan general manager Chris Gibbs

Open source technology is everywhere – but is it any good?

Despite widespread adoption around the globe, open source technology continues to generate questions about its security and performance.

Detractors question whether it’s a suitable basis for enterprise projects and platforms; their scepticism due, in no small part, to a series of myths and misconceptions which surround the technology.

In an era in which cyber-crime and hacking attacks are so frequent, they’ve ceased to be newsworthy, some of these concerns spring from a genuine fear that open source means open to all comers.

Others have their roots in inertia and the deep comfort of the familiar. Many IT managers would prefer to stick with the tried and true – proprietary technologies whose performance is known and for which they’re happy to be accountable, rather than the unknown quantity which is open source.

Here are four myths about open source which are ripe for debunking.

1.  Proprietary software is safer than open source

How can it be safe if anyone can pore through it?

It’s easy to see how open source acquired an unjustified reputation for vulnerability – there it is for anyone to examine, bad actors included.

Paradoxically, this is one of its greatest strengths, from a security perspective.

Because they’re able to check source code, developers can pinpoint and remediate security issues far more easily than they’re able to use proprietary programs.

The latter are typically protected by software developed by third-party vendors, which may be a step or several behind the ill-intentioned.

Furthermore, programs can be infiltrated without recourse to source code – clever hackers are likely to have the tools at hand to make this task a cinch.

2. High maintenance: Open source is more work to maintain

Hundreds of developers have worked on it, therefore it’s a complex and unwieldy beast. Again, this sounds like a reasonable assumption – except that it isn’t.

Because open source is a collaborative creation, there will always be developers willing to maintain and improve their collective efforts.

And because they’re developers, they’ll continue to do so systematically, documenting their source code contributions using project management tools designed for the purpose. 

Furthermore, while maintaining aging proprietary systems can be problematic, as vendors switch their focus to more current products and developers move on, this is a non-issue with open source.

Users have ready, ongoing access to a body of experts who can address issues and provide support. 

3.  Open source is a fad

Here today, gone tomorrow? All new technologies run the risk of being dubbed fads until time shows otherwise.

Reputable research houses and industry bodies, including Gartner and The Linux Foundation, have postulated that open source has staying power.

A recent survey carried out by the latter found a growing number of companies were throwing their weight behind open source as a means of driving efficiency and productivity.

More than 50% of respondents across all industries worked within organisations which had adopted open source or planned to do so.

The report noted the growing variety of platforms and software types now being designed around open source.

4. Open source is a second-string technology

“It might be okay for certain companies but it’s not good enough for the heavy hitters.”

This is one myth that’s ripe for the busting.

Global technology behemoths Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter use open source.

So does IBM.

In 2018, it spent $34 billion acquiring Red Hat, one of the most high-profile open source software vendors in the game.

A report by Market and Markets the same year suggested the open source services market will be worth almost $33 billion by 2022.

That’s not chump change in anyone’s book but rather an undeniable sign the industry is embracing the model with enthusiasm.

For Australian and New Zealand businesses today, Open source platforms are fast becoming the high-tech norm, as IT departments and the organisations they serve become alive to the possibilities they offer. 

For Australian marketers, Open Source solutions provide an agile platform to create multi-channel digital experiences that cover the full spectrum of their customer’s journey.

The question ‘why’ is likely to be replaced by ‘why not? as the technology continues to gain acceptance across the business world.