decorative image for blog on realizing the benefits of open source software
September 30, 2021

Realizing the Benefits of Open Source Software

Open Source

Just because open source software is used everywhere, doesn’t mean that it won't pose challenges to users. That means the enterprises who can face and solve those challenges are far more likely to achieve the benefits of open source software — benefits like reduced overhead, increased flexibility, and an improved ability to attract and retain top development talent.

But those challenges differ by role, with decision makers facing more than just technical issues. In this blog, we detail some of the key benefits of open source software and how enterprise companies can help to realize those benefits, as told by the Gartner® Report, "A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open Source Software."

The Benefits of Open Source Software Within the Enterprise

According to Gartner®, “OSS is used in mission-critical IT workloads by more than 95% of the end-user and vendor-side IT organizations worldwide, whether they are aware of it or not." The real news is that, per Gartner®, “Through 2025, more than 70% of enterprises will increase their IT spending in open-source software (OSS), compared with their current IT spending.”

There are a number of reasons why this is happening, but most of them correspond to the sheer number of benefits that organizations can experience when successfully integrating open source software into their IT infrastructure.

diagram from gartner report on oss showing the reasons why companies adopt open source software
Figure 1: OSS in the Enterprise

These benefits occur at all levels throughout an organization, too. A developer may see benefits in creating innovative products and features, while a CTO may see less overhead and less turnover within their ranks.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to talk about the benefits of open source software presented in the Gartner® Report, "A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open Source Software."

Cost

According to Gartner®,   “Nearly every open-source adopter expects cost savings, when compared with homegrown or licensed proprietary third-party solutions. However, Gartner’s research has shown that open-source efforts do not always save costs. This outcome hinges on many factors, including governance and skills needed to operationalize it.”

Of course, cost savings are just one potential benefit of adopting open source software.

Flexibility and Innovation

Companies who adopt open source software often do so to gain flexibility by escaping from vendor lock-in. Using open source can mean more choice in supporting technologies, and in available support options for the adopted technology itself.

Gartner® is also right to point out the ROI continuum of that flexibility:

“The key to maximizing ROI advantages afforded through OSS flexibility lies between the theoretical freedom to exercise control and customization and the realistic ability to do so, which is limited by such real-world factors as engineering knowledge and bandwidth.”

Innovation is also another motivating factor for open source adoption, with open source the “dominant software model for innovation efforts in the new digital economy.”

Talent Acquisition and Retention

Ask any enterprise around the world — finding and maintaining top talent can be a herculean task. A complicating factor for software development is that many of the best and brightest want to work on cutting edge projects, and those projects are typically using open source software.

According to Gartner®, “OSS usage and opportunity to contribute provides an opportunity across all of these factors and is becoming a magnet for hiring and retaining motivated talent.”

Download the Full Gartner® Report

Read "A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open Source Software" to see how enterprises can realize the full benefits of open source.

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Realizing the Benefits of Open Source Software

As noted above, there is a gulf between recognizing the benefits of open source software, and having the organizational wherewithal to realize those benefits. In the following sections, we discuss a few of the top practices in realizing the benefits of open source software, as told by the Gartner® Report, A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open Source Software.

Know Your Open Source Business Models

One of the keys in realizing the benefits of open source software is in understanding the various business models present in open source software, and understanding how those models will impact integration into your infrastructure.

Without an understanding of these models, organizations can stumble into situations that they were trying to avoid by migrating away from paid software.

A few of the most common open source business models include:

  • Commercial OSS Support – a model where an open source vendor provides services to accompany their open source software, like Rocky Linux.
  • Open Core – a model where the core program is open source, but extensions to that functionality are paid — think Confluent or DataStax.
  • OSS as SaaS – in this model, vendors often offer their open source software as a cloud-based SaaS, or as a hosted service on a public cloud infrastructure.*

Establishing an Open Source Program Office

As per Gartner®, "Many enterprises who find success with open source software do so with the guidance of an open source program office, or OSPO. This office should be organization-wide, and requires participation from leadership across enterprise technology departments, including "architecture, engineering, security and risk, infrastructure and operations, and sourcing."

gartner diagram showing open source program office functions at comcast cable
Figure 2: OSPO at Comcast Cable

According to Gartner®, "an OSPO strategy document should include:

  • An overview of why OSS is important, and its alignment with the broader business and IT strategy
  • Guidelines on where and how OSS can be consumed
  • An overview of licenses and usage policies
  • Guidance on how OSS usage decisions will be made
  • An outline of best practices for open-source usage
  • Document risks of policy violation and how they will be dealt with"

Finding Technical Support for Your Open Source Software

Finally, finding success with open source software requires a conscious open source software support strategy for each adopted piece of software.

As discussed in the paper, many free open source software options offer commercial support for their software.

In our experience, however, few enterprises are adopting just one piece of OSS, and many of the vendors that support just their own software don't have the expertise or staff required to solve problems within the modern enterprise stack that fall outside of their specific technology.

This makes finding a holistic open source support vendor — e.g. OpenLogic — a popular choice within the enterprise.

Final Thoughts

Realizing the benefits of open source software starts with understanding the benefits and limitations of open source software. But, as Gartner® discusses at length in "A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open Source Software", that's just the start. Enterprises should establish a formalized strategy and/or OSPO, with input provided by stakeholders throughout the company, if they want to achieve the benefits of open source software.

Get Technical Support for Your Open Source Software

With award-winning technical support and services for over 450 open source packages, OpenLogic serves as a strategic partner for enterprises across the world.

Want to learn more about how OpenLogic can support your open source software? Visit our homepage, browse our supported technologies, or talk to an expert today.

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Additional Resources

*Source: Gartner, A CTO’s Guide to Top Practices for Open-Source Software, Arun Chandrasekaran, Mark Driver, 1 March 2021

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request at: www.openlogic.com/resources/gartner-guide-top-practices-oss