Businesses Warned: Don't Be Distracted by Open Source Debate

Article date: Wed, 05 Mar 2014 09:00 GMT

Open Source Debate

Businesses that focus on which software to use rather than business need and budget risk costly investment in unsuitable technology, according to a panel of software experts involved in a proprietary vs open source debate.

As open source software matures and moves further into the enterprise technology field, hosting and colocation firm UKFast gathered a panel of experts to discuss the challenges businesses face when choosing between open source and proprietary software for their business.

Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast said: "As the open source debate has been building more momentum over recent years, people are developing very strong views one way or another and this is presenting a risk to businesses who may become distracted by a bias either way, instead of considering what is the best approach for their business's needs.

"Open source has made huge advancements recently and we are looking to adopt the approach into our solutions in the near future to reflect this, but in the same respect, we built our eCloud infrastructure with proprietary software because it is an enterprise class, Rolls-Royce level cloud solution and we felt that proprietary software - VMware in this instance - was the best route to take. This should be the thought process for any business when choosing software."

Jas Sandhu, ecommerce solutions architect at technology solutions consultancy Tyzens, agreed, adding: "It's not a case of open source vs proprietary; I'd advise not to differentiate, but to think about what's best for the organisation. In terms of strategy, which software best fits this in the long term and which company providing that software has goals aligned with yours."

Darryl Adie, founder of technical agency Ampersand Commerce told the panel that the increase in accountability of open source is what has pushed the software alternative into the business mainstream, making it all the more important to consider all viable options in software choices.

He said: "Over the past five years there has been much more of a drive towards big businesses taking open source projects and actually making them commercial enterprises with the accountability and the enterprise support that bigger customers need. I think that's the shift that makes open source seem less risky.

"Businesses must look at both options and the key thing to consider is the ecosystem that comes with the platform that you're looking at, and whether that meets your needs. So, often, the open source choice would give the user the strategic option to take development in-house themselves. Whereas proprietary software may be more of a complete product that will give the customer the ability to jump straight into the product and work with it."

Diana Erskine, MD of digital consultancy Reading Room, agreed, explaining that the shift in attitude to open source is opening more options for companies that would previously have opted for proprietary without considering alternatives.

Erskine said: "The difference is that our market and our customers have changed what they want, and they have become more adventurous, because with wanting greater value for money comes becoming more adventurous with what solutions you are prepared to consider. Clients that three or four years ago were saying to us that they must have proprietary and that they need the license support and accountability are now coming to us querying about doing it the open source way; which is really exciting to see."

Jeremy Coates, MD of web application development company Magma Digital, added: "I think a big thing a couple of years ago in public sector, the government said open source will be given at least equal priority against proprietary in the selection process and from that moment onwards it has been a much more level playing field."

Chris Jolley, developer at creative digital agency Carpe Diem, summed it up; saying: "It comes down to seeking good advice. If you're open minded to both approaches because I believe quite strongly that there is a best fit for every scenario whatever it is you're trying to achieve, yes there will be countless open source approaches but there'll also be prop ones and it's a case of getting the right advice to ensure that whichever way you go suits your goals and your budgets. It's important to define what those goals are before you start this process."

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