IT Brief Australia - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Using Open source Software (OSS) is critical for cloud transformations
Thu, 29th Jul 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As more organisations move to the cloud, many will face a choice: to use open source platforms or stick with proprietary solutions from vendors.

Previously there have been many misconceptions about open source, that it's less secure or harder to maintain, for example, or even that it's not enterprise-grade. In reality, open source allows for security issues to be rapidly addressed since anyone in the community can fix them, rather than waiting for a single software vendor to release a patch.

As for not being enterprise-grade, just consider Amazon, Google, IBM, and the London and New York Stock Exchanges, all of which not only use but have a critical reliance on open source technology.

Australia's banking system also extensively uses open source: whenever a banking tech team mentions Kubernetes, Apache, or even .NET, they are running open source software. And with cryptocurrency being completely open source, the future of banking could very well be built on this kind of open foundation.

There are four more reasons why the future of the cloud is (or should be) incorporating open source, and it starts with helping to address the current skills shortage.

1. Solving the skills shortage

The war for tech talent is showing no signs of abating. In Australia, key engineering talent is constantly switching between different organisations, drawn in by lucrative salary offers.

On top of this, COVID-19 restrictions have made it nearly impossible to bring in tech talent from overseas. However, open source technologies such as Kubernetes, GO, Mongo, etc., are already being used by many employees across the ecosystem. If more companies choose to adopt this familiar technology, tech teams can widen the net of potential new hires.

Speaking a ‘common language' when it comes to IT can also be achieved through open source and allows teams to hit the ground running when onboarding new team members.

2. Developer and engineer preference

A February 2021 survey from IBM identified a preference among developers for working on open source cloud platforms, with 94% rating it equal to or better than proprietary software. When choosing cloud providers, 70% of respondents also preferred those based on open source.

Using open source creates stronger professional opportunities. For a developer, open source can also mean more options career-wise, as it doesn't pigeonhole them into working with just one cloud provider.

3. Greater innovation

Tech problems are becoming far too big for one company or person to solve on their own. With open source, you get global collaboration, transparency, and ideas. People are using their skills to benefit the wider community — even their competitors. This accelerates the development cycle and enables innovative solutions to be produced much quicker.

For example, modern cloud-native apps often span multiple technology and vendor boundaries. But available tracing tools haven't been built with interoperability in mind, meaning traces often get broken and information is lost. An open source project, the W3C Distributed Tracing Working Group, is working to define common standards that will be to everyone's advantage, and it's this kind of collaboration that's fostering greater innovation.

4. Better compatibility

With many businesses adopting a hybrid cloud model, open source offers the advantage of being compatible with other cloud environments. While traditional solutions are focused on vendor needs, open source solutions can be adapted to suit specific business requirements. 
There's more flexibility and adaptability as well as longevity.

Open source software can live on even if the relationship with the original provider ends if they happen to go out of business or shift their focus to new endeavours.

Open source software has become particularly critical to the monitoring landscape. IT teams use dozens of tools to measure the performance of their tech stacks. Open source software sits at the heart of this tool explosion, as well as open standards, such as OpenTelemetry.

It may sound like a lofty ideal, but ultimately the world runs on software, and the world needs better internet to build a better world. No single organisation can do this alone, so by contributing to open standards, open instrumentation, and open collaboration, tech leaders can make a positive difference in the world while creating a more vibrant and inclusive developer community.