Open source: It’s about the community, says Red Hat exec
By Benjamin Cher August 19, 2016
- Misconceptions around security and stability have been ‘blown out of the water’
- Open sources is not just using it, but giving back to the community as well
MISCONCEPTIONS about open source software abound, with many companies still having doubts about its stability or security. After all, it’s ‘open,’ right?
But the misconception that open source software is not stable “has been blown out of the water,” says Ashesh Badani, vice president and general manager of the Cloud/OpenShift business unit at open source enterprise software provider Red Hat Inc.
“For example, Linux-based software runs the world’s largest stock exchanges, as well as governments, banks, cloud service providers,” he says, referring to the flagship open source operating system (OS).
“Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix – all these companies are running [open source] software; it is definitely technology that is robust and scalable,” he adds, speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) in Singapore recently.
As for security, open source has even greater benefits than proprietary software – thanks to the open source community, “thousands of eyes” are looking to identify and patch vulnerabilities, according to Ashesh.
This is in contrast to proprietary technology such as Microsoft Corp’s Windows OS, where only one company is looking to patch vulnerabilities, he argues.
In the past, Red Hat always had to present white papers and research statistics to show that open source software was secure.
Not so much any longer. “There is a level of familiarity and comfort with open source-based software – now people sort of trust it more,” he says.
“In the last two years, no customer has asked me to justify why they should use open source software,” he adds.
Organisations have come to realisation is that bespoke or custom software is no longer a good thing.
“If we research and put it back into the community, more people contribute and see to it, you get the benefits of it and others will too – and they will keep improving it,” says Ashesh.
Another benefit is that open source enables greater innovation, Ashesh (pic) claims, again thanks to the participation of the community.
Not mincing his words, he says it would be foolhardy for companies to ignore open source software and the innovations coming from its community. “More innovation happens here [in open source].”
And open source adoption is quickly becoming key in talent acquisition as well.
“I’ve noticed the millennial generation really like the idea of participating and collaborating in a community, doing something greater than themselves,” says Ashesh.
“They encounter that in college, and they get familiar with this kind of technology when they have a lot of free time and not a lot of money, so when they come out to the workplace, they want to use this as well,” he adds.
Adoption a cultural shift
Adopting open source is easy, but to fully embracing it requires a cultural transformation as well, according to Benjamin Henshall, director of AppDev Solutions at Red Hat Asia Pacific.
“Imagine if Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline got together and open sourced all their patents to solve a disease, making it available for everyone to come up with an idea to solve it,” he says.
“Theoretically the disease will be solved very quickly because you have a collection of openness and transparency of ideas, where the best ideas rise to the top,” he adds.
This requires a cultural shift in how we approach value and ideation, argues Henshall (pic).
“The classic human condition is ‘I have an idea, I’m going to own it, I’m not going to share it and I’m going to try and protect it because I’m the smartest guy in the room.
“When you operate in an environment like that, you dumb down the ability to solve problems,” he says.
Open source instead makes ‘collegiality’ happen, and smarter organisations will participate in this process rather than just using the software, according to Henshall.
“You get much faster problem solving and iteration, so much activity is going on – how can you tap into that and get value?
“That is just open source 101 … the smarter organisations will say, ‘You know what? Let’s not be takers but let’s be participants. Let’s use that cultural transformation and bring that ideation, collegiality, openness and sharing back internally,” he adds.
This giving back to the open source community rather than only taking from it is already happening with organisations, and not just with the usual tech companies.
“It happens more quickly with organisations like Facebook for example – [founder and chief executive officer] Mark Zuckerberg took advantage of the open source MySQL database,” says Ashesh.
“Now, not only is Facebook giving back, it open sourced its design of data centres back into the community,” he adds.
Even old-school companies are riding the wave. For example, travel technology provider Amadeus has its developers working with Red Hat developers and contributing code back the open source community.
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