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Making Open Source a Part of the Enterprise Culture

The open source movement was launched way back in the 1990s, since then, Open Source Software (OSS) has gained considerable legitimacy. Today, several experts agree that the future of IT infrastructure is driving towards open source. As per the 2018 IDC TechScape, “most of the important emerging technologies are partially or fully made up of open source components, which makes a bold statement about where the industry goes in the future”.1

The role of open source technologies in the enterprise business is highlighted by major acquisitions and partnerships, including Microsoft’s interest in GitHub for $7.5 billion, IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat and Salesforce’s $6.5 billion acquisition of Mulesoft.2

Enterprises see a lot of value in it, especially from the point of view of innovation, future-proof architecture, lower TCO, speed to business and lower vendor dependency.

Adoption is still low

However, adoption across industries, services and geographies have been inconsistent. For example, communication service providers, manufacturing, healthcare and life sciences and retail sectors have given open source a lot of strategic importance, while banking, financial services and insurance are adopting open source to reduce IT investments.3 There is still a lot of scope in industries like utilities, media and entertainment, mining, travel and transport.

The adoption of open source by the enterprises face challenges primarily due to three reasons

  1. Bewildering technology choices: There are many options to choose from, so it becomes difficult to select the best fit technology in an unbiased manner
  2. Scarcity of full-stack architects: Most organizations are unable to take a broader view and leverage best practices across industry segments
  3. Complex vendor ecosystem: Ensuring a cohesive platform at a good price point becomes an extremely involving exercise due to a complex vendor ecosystem

Key learnings for successful implementation of open source across industries

I have several key learnings to share with you based on our experience of implementing OSS for our clients:

  • Choose the architecture and not the product
  • It makes sense to choose the right architecture as it means you choose the right technology to meet your enterprise’s needs. If you go by the product, it may not suit your requirement. For example, if you choose NoSQL database without due consideration for actual workload, the project may fail.

  • Take the commercial decisions along with technology
  • When one or more technologies are at par, it is important to evaluate commercial aspect of the product as well. It is important to decide where enterprise support will be required and where they may not be needed. For example, in certain environments it may suffice to take a low tier subscription or no subscription at all. The decision whether to go ahead with subscription or not also depends on what features of the product are we interested in. The good thing about open source is that in most of the cases, it is easier to migrate to the enterprise supported version without making much changes to the existing application.

  • Make sure you have a support ecosystem
  • It is important to have the right support for a stable production. Sometimes, contracts can be very complex requiring support and insight from experts in order to avoid risks and maximize the value of the OSS.

  • Consider a phased approach instead of big-bang
  • It is important to consider a pilot or a Proof of Concept (PoC) to validate the architecture before embarking on a full-fledged implementation. The pilot provides a good architectural base on which the application foundation can be built upon.

  • Create a strong open source governance model
  • A governance model is essential to manage risk and compliance associated with a proliferation of open source licenses. In fact, having a well-rounded OSS Policy can help mitigate the risks while bringing all the benefits to the organization. It is advisable to create a technology center of excellence to incubate new technologies before democratizing their usage in the enterprise.

  • Build credibility by contributing regularly to communities
  • Organizations need to build credibility by contributing to open source communities as it not only helps them but also enables their employees to hone their skills and build their brand by getting recognition in external forums and communities.

We, at Infosys, encourage our employees to make contributions to OSS communities. We are building a culture within the organization where participation and contribution to open source is encouraged and facilitated. Infosys has signed partnerships with several open source partners like RedHat, MongoDB, Couchbase, Redis, Confluent and other leading OSS vendors across the open source stack to drive joint solutions. We also recently launched the Infosys Modernization Platform that helps accelerate application modernization leveraging open source technologies.

Many organizations make the mistake of relying on a tactical, developer driven approach to adopting open source, which results in fragmentation, inefficiencies, and exposure to risks. It is not only important to have an organizational strategy and framework for open source adoption but to also focus on driving awareness across the organization, including business consumers where we break the traditional mindset of always getting things right the first time.