Why Enterprises Must Commit to Open Source
“Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the internet?”
- Eric Raymond on Linux in 1997
There lies the power of open source. Open source software has come a long way since the term was coined in February 1998. Today open source technologies are powering mission critical applications across the globe. Let’s take a look at the largest biometric ID system in the world – Aadhaar, India’s sophisticated identification system, that effectively digitized a mammoth population into one database and it has been built completely on an open source stack.1 Similarly, the Goods and Services Tax Network in India was built on open source to process as many as 3.5 billion invoices each month. 2,3
There is no doubt that open source has given us immense power through the ‘bazaar style’ of development where anyone can participate and contribute. Unlike the ‘cathedral style’, which is defined by a completely centralized effort, the open source way of development brings together the best minds across the globe. It helps accelerate innovation while keeping down the cost of software consumption. At Infosys, we have a strong open source practice which helps our clients accelerate their adoption of open source. We have deep expertise on consuming open source technologies to develop the best of breed applications for our clients.
However, as a consumer of open source it is as much our responsibility to give back to the community. It helps develop more mature solutions but this is not the only reason why we should contribute to open source - as an organization, there are several compelling reasons to contribute. According to Harvard Business School Research companies that contribute and give back, learn how to better use the open source software in their own environment – boosting productivity by as much as 100%.4
- We can get to understand technology at a much deeper level, enabling us to help clients better
- Employees can get opportunities to develop and widen their skills, working with some of the top experts in the industry
- We can use our real-world experience to add or change features that will benefit our clients, and get a clear view on technology roadmaps
- By contributing, we can in turn get better support and access to the knowledge & experience of other members of the community
In addition to the organizational benefits, individuals have a lot to gain as well:
- Gives an opportunity to study and understand products in-depth; feedback from experts is a great way to understand best practices and to get better at communicating thought processes
- It builds reputation and professional network. Contributing regularly builds credibility in the community as a good developer and an effective communicator
- A chance to give back - contributing to open source is also about making an impact on the technology community.
As an organization, Infosys is committed to contributing to and nurturing open source communities. A recent example is the ‘InfyKubeCon’ event which we conducted in early 2019, to encourage contribution to Kubernetes, one of the top open source projects.
An enterprise can contribute in many ways, from sharing challenges that need to be solved, to offering ideas, participating in existing open projects and starting their own big projects. Whichever way you choose to contribute, supporting open source will benefit both employees and clients.