Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who uses Open Source?

Until recently OSS was reserved for academic / scientific centres and IT enthusiasts. A condition to use this software was rich IT expertise and experience. Lack of vast commercial support caused little interest in Open Source software among business circles.

For several years there has been a dynamic increase in the interest in OSS projects in administrative and business environments. Governments of many countries (especially members of the European Union) insist that the offices subordinate to them use OSS. Open Source software is more and more willingly used in business (e.g. in big banks) and military centres. The main reasons for the interest in Open Source software are as follows:

The market of commercial solutions is monopolized heavily. The concerns producing Closed Source systems demand high price for the possibility to use their products. OSS gives the same products for much less money. An additional advantage of OSS is its independence from the product's supplier and guarantee of permanence.

The extent of hacking and misuses in the world wide web in the recent years has revealed the dark side of the Closed Source software - low quality of the code (known only to the producer) contributed to many gaps in the safety of systems.

The code of Open Source programs is reviewed already during their development by many people interested in it. The OSS project is constantly audited by its users - errors found in it are deleted almost immediately (by the author of the application or by third parties that have full access to the source code). As an effect, the reaction time for a "hole" is measured in hours and not in days/months, as in the case of Closed Source software (it sometimes even happens - although less frequently - that the producer denies the existence of a discovered error).

Scandals related to introducing a spying code to Closed Source software (extorted from producers for example by military agencies) undermined the sense of using such a solution in strategic applications. The possibility of auditing and monitoring the code is priceless in these areas where safety is the ultimate condition. Therefore, the governments of many countries (now mainly European) put pressure on the army and administration not to use Closed Source solutions (currently mainly of American origin). For instance, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Finland, and the Netherlands use OSS in central government systems (eg. insurance systems). The official website of the Dutch government encouraging OSS usage can serve as an example. There are more and more big companies on the market that support Open Source projects. Giants such as IBM, HP, SGI and Novell willingly install advanced and free Linux software on their servers. These companies obtain profit not from the distribution of software but from the sales of hardware and services.

Many advanced technologies deriving from commercial and closed operating system are made available by their owners for free and introduced into the Linux kernel. A great file system XFS created by Sylicon Graphics, Inc. and derived from the Irix system can be an example here. Now the Linux system is developed not only by enthusiasts but also by teams of engineers representing such companies as Intel, SGI, IBM, and Novell.

More and more small and medium size companies also offer commercial support of Open Source Software as far as implementation, modification and servicing are concerned. This creates favourable conditions to the application of Open Source Software in solving business problems.

No comments: