On track for open source

Open source software has gained traction in some sectors, but there is still some resistance to adopting the OSS approach in the region

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On track for open source Open source solutions have made an impact in some markets, but some CIOs are still wary of taking the OSS route.
By  Keri Allan Published  April 1, 2014

Open source software has gained traction in some sectors, but there is still some resistance to adopting the OSS approach in the region. However, costs, total control over the code of open source applications, and more readily available skillsets are leading many organisations in the region to consider taking the open source route.

While a few major software companies are supporting the open source model, it has mainly been a grass roots movement, and not something that has been openly embraced by all end user organisations. But is opinion changing and acceptance of open source growing?

According to analysts, yes. Gartner has predicted that by 2015, more than 95% of mainstream IT organisations will leverage open source software (OSS) solutions in their mission critical technology portfolios, up from 75% in 2010. Then there’s the demand for OSS expertise. The Linux Job Report, published annually by the Linux Foundation, shows that technology companies are constantly on the look out for skilled OSS developers and engineers.

This shows us that interest in OSS is growing, as does the expansion of OSS-focused businesses such as Red Hat.

“There is no question about the growing popularity of open source across the world and in the region as well. Red Hat, like most organisations today, is extremely conservative when it comes to investment in offices and manpower resources. However, we’re investing significantly in the region and expanding rapidly across MENA. Not because of the opportunity that we see in three years’ time, but because of the opportunity that is here with us right now and the current demands that are being placed on us by our customers and partners,” highlights Faycal Saile, general manager, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Red Hat.

“If you look at the numbers from IDC and Gartner, it is very clear from their independent opinions that in the near future, there will be only two operating systems for the enterprise space, one of which is Linux. If you look at this transition towards open source in the middleware space, it is causing many of our competitors to rethink their market approach and price levels and other business strategies. This overall drive we believe is resonating with a large number of enterprises in the region and it is really starting to impact how a lot of them think about their business,” he adds.

OSS is now available for most software technologies including operating systems, business applications, security, networking, virtualisation, storage and collaboration, offering customers a much wider – and often cheaper – choice of solutions.

“The most common OSS implementations in enterprises are of solutions like Apache web server, various variants of Linux operating system, and OSS databases like MySQL,” says Dhiraj Daryani, Research Manager, Software and Enterprise Solutions, IDC Middle East, Africa, & Turkey.

“Like all models of software licensing, open source has its inherent benefits. The total cost of ownership (TCO) of open source software is widely known to be lower than proprietary solutions. Further, the organisation has complete control of the software code, and combined with suitably skilled staff, open-source solutions have the potential to offer maximum control of the enterprise IT environment.

“This may be a critical value-add for some organisations that pay special attention to various security aspects like authentication, integration, controllability, and accessibility. The ability to completely customise the look-and-feel of OSS solutions can also be an advantage in certain industries in the region.

“Further, as organisations that use OSS solutions grow, it may be easier for them to migrate to other open or closed solutions based on changing business requirements.”

As you would expect, OSS solutions are growing and evolving, as more people get involved — from both the development and end user sides. Development and troubleshooting communities are very active globally, with technology lowering geographical boundaries, however if you look specifically at the Middle East Region, analysts such as Daryani will tell you that representation is poor.

“There aren’t many OSS communities in the region, and the ones that are present are not very active,” he notes.

Perhaps much of the development work is taking place elsewhere, but that isn’t stopping the Middle East from embracing OSS solutions, and acceptance by business professionals is growing — although not everyone is convinced yet.

“The world is still dominated by the closed system providers, due to their heavy marketing budget and prevalence, but open source is slowly getting traction. The new generation of IT guys are definitely pushing for it,” comments Ajay Rathi, Head of IT, Meraas Holding.

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