Every company must now at least dabble in software. In fact, to be competitive, many will need to make building and running software a core competency. To meet their software needs, companies obviously can’t write everything from scratch. They’ll need to work off the efforts of others.
The future for building code is around community and people. That requires an open source approach, with contributions from a large number of developers. As a result, you’ll see more reliability, security, adoption, and interoperability—all at a faster velocity.
This post covers those five benefits of open source software:
These areas have both business and technical implications, which all lead to creating better software.
There’s a reason that most of the Internet runs on open source. From Linux to WordPress to most frameworks and utilities, they’re powered by open software. The level of usage encourages contributions, which encourages further usage. It’s the virtuous cycle of open source to which we all contribute and from which we all benefit.
Reliability is one of the important benefits created by the contribution/usage cycle. As a follow up to this article I recommend that you look up Peter Levine’s presentation and blog post where he describes the cycle related to open source based business models. As a first step to business success in open source, Levine cites project-community fit, where a group of developers actively contribute.
As more developers rely upon an open source project, the more likely they’ll be able to contribute. One important side effect of contributions is that software becomes more reliable. It’s not just one company responsible for reliability, it’s a shared concern by the entire community that supports the project.
Greater reliability and usage certainly encourage adoption of open sourced code, as well. It’s not simply a matter of developers choosing what’s most popular. The availability of open source itself helps drive adoption and makes it the prudent choice.
Developers want to be able to try software they’ll rely upon and, if possible, see how it works. Open source checks both of those boxes in a big way. By its very nature, open source is available—at both tire-kicking and code-digging levels.
For example, Ockam’s open source projects become more durable and valuable the more they are used by the community. The virtuous cycle comes into play here, too, which ultimately increases adoption of complicated and important security protocols for millions of developers.
Further, access to open source goes beyond any single company’s support. Developers want to adopt software they know they’ll be able to use regardless of one company’s internal decisions. Open source shines against proprietary software because it’s available now and will continue to be in the future.
Another area that proprietary software is deficient compared to open source is security. There’s a myth that the reverse is true, but a black box is a poor home for any security solution. Closed source software cannot be rigorously inspected, so there’s no way to know the full extent of its vulnerabilities.
Of course, being open source itself does not make software more secure. It’s the eyes of many engineers, with a vested interest in its invulnerability, that makes dependable open source security.
When issues are discovered in open source, a developer may flag it publicly. Then, the entire community may prioritize a fix. In many cases, the fix comes from the developer who identified the problem. The entire community benefits, without relying on any single company’s development timeline.
The virtuous cycle compounds the security of open source software, and everyone ends up with better tools.
Community contributions and usage also encourage integrations between open source and other projects. The most used open source software become de facto standards, but even nascent projects benefit from interoperability.
Developers who need a particular integration may write the code necessary to connect two tools. For example, that may come in the form of implementing an interface that one of the tools expects. Frequently, that implementation will also be open sourced, or even contributed back to the original open source project. The next developer that comes along now receives the benefit of both the original project and the integration—all without business development conversations or partnership contracts.
When you look specifically at connected devices, interoperability is a big problem. There are billions of combinations of potential connection configurations. It’s impossible to implement all of the permutations.
Yet, chip makers, device OEMs, network and cloud service providers need to integrate with each other. Open source interfaces, such as Ockam's, provide the community with much more interoperability than re-creating each combination anew.
The virtuous cycle of open source has many benefits. When put together, they provide developers and their employers with increased velocity. It takes time to build reliable and secure software from scratch. Yet, open source allows the entire community to gain from the efforts of many.
Open source adoption is both a benefit and a driver of the other advantages, including interoperability. When more developers can access a solution, they will build the necessary connectors, which allows the whole community to move that much faster.
For Ockam, there wasn’t another option for our business. To build components and services that developers will trust, Ockam needed to be open source. It makes developer sense and it makes business sense.
See how we enable developers to establish an architecture for trust within their applications.