Four ways leveraging open source provides a strategic edge

open source

Technical architecture designs are among the most critical decisions an organization can make, particularly for any that build industry-leading software or face a digital transformation. Poor tech stack choices result in an accumulation of technical debt and switching costs that continue to get worse long after the decisions have been made. The tools your organization selects must be embraced by teams across your entire software development lifecycle to reduce friction, drive efficiencies, and support complex workflows.

The ideal tech stack is interoperable, automated, and flexible enough to limit adverse effects on productivity and profitability. That’s a lot for engineering leaders to keep in mind, especially in today’s environments where the ultimate goal is to enable developers and other technical teams to operate with the right level of agility while keeping pace with rapid change.

We’re nearing a decade since the now-famous words of Michael Skok who proposed that open source is eating the software world. The growing reality is that many areas of our technology stack have now been wholly consumed by open source software to the point where there are few to zero competitive solutions. In 2020, Red Hat surveyed nearly 1,000 IT leaders and discovered that 75 percent feel open source is very or extremely important.

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More often than not, organizations of all sizes are embracing open source solutions because of their unrivaled customization and control, all while offering industry-leading features and performance. New technologies emerge with extraordinary frequency, so you must maintain a flexible environment to stay relevant and open source software is most often the best solution to do so.

Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits open source technology can bring to your organization:

Top-Notch Security

We live in an era of near constant data breaches, software supply chain and zero-day exploits, and targeted hacking attempts at virtually every exposed piece of IT infrastructure. The cost of the average data breach exceeded $4 million in 2021, with highly regulated industries most affected.

When you use proprietary tools, you’re effectively outsourcing your security to the associated vendors and hoping they have your best interests in mind. The reality is that vulnerabilities often go undetected until after a breach occurs, and relying on someone else to react to security breaches makes your engineering team vulnerable to disruption.

Open source tools provide unrivaled control over your environment’s security by enabling you to specify configurations for every component of your infrastructure and review the code to ensure it meets your security and data requirements. Additionally, mature open source communities often have an extensive network of engineering professionals using and inspecting the code on a daily basis, resulting in an informal vetting process that identifies and fixes bugs and vulnerabilities much faster than proprietary software.

Unrivaled Customization and Flexibility

Software moves fast; Kubernetes didn’t exist before 2014, but now 91 percent of teams surveyed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation leverage it in some way.  Open source software is the best solution to keep up with the rapid pace of change and to enable your engineering team to operate with optimal agility and flexibility.

With complete access to the source code, you’re able to fully customize its operation and tailor it to your specific needs. Interoperability and extensibility are the norm in open source software, enabling engineers to quickly-build high-impact software without wasting time reinventing the wheel. Proprietary solutions often come with more rigid, inflexible architectures, and open source is the remedy that enables you to craft solutions for any project.

Attract Top Software Engineering Talent

The war to attract and retain high-performing  is on, especially for niche, technical roles like software engineers. Landing top talent starts with providing developers with innovative tools that enable them to reach their full potential. Increasingly, engineers prefer open source solutions over proprietary alternatives for many reasons that include improved flexibility and extensibility, lower cost to implement, faster development speed, and higher code quality, functionality, performance, and security

Simply put, developers want to use and contribute back to open source software because this enables them to live up to their full potential. Any organization that needs to hire software developers should provide open source tools to entice them.

Use Data Sovereignty to Break Away From Vendor Lock-in

There are a variety of concerns that keep CIOs up at night, but 68 percent are especially concerned about vendor lock-in: when they can’t transition over to another vendor without significant costs.  Legacy, proprietary solutions can limit your control over your organization’s data and make it difficult to migrate to another solution. To compound this problem, vendors and solutions providers can alter their services as they see fit. At best, this has the potential to disrupt your organization if the vendor’s product roadmap doesn’t align with your needs, at worst, it could turn into an abusive relationship where the vendor exerts their power over you to profit at your expense.

With open source tools you can achieve complete data sovereignty and have full ownership of every component of your technology environment. This provides much more flexibility to migrate to new solutions in the future and avoid vendor lock-in.

It’s no surprise that open source tools are becoming increasingly popular among teams, especially developers. Creating flexibility while also having access to a helpful community and highly secure environment is a true strategic advantage for an organization.

Image credit: Artur Szczybylo/Shutterstock

Ben Lloyd Pearson is the Director of Developer Marketing Mattermost, an open source platform for secure collaboration across the entire software development lifecycle.

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