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Open Source - What is all the fuss about?

Data centre and private cloud

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Lance Williams

Head of Services Market Development

Over the next few weeks, Softcat will publish 5 guest blog posts covering the most popular areas of open source software and we would love you to join us, even pose some questions, online during our live panel discussion on Tuesday 22nd September at 1pm.

For those who know me, it’s no secret that I have a passion for technology. I read A LOT and when you get exposure to the volume of editorials, whitepapers, studies, vendor articles, and customers that I do, you realise the megatrends affecting the industry are pretty consistent; 3rd platform (IoT, cloud, mobile), virtualisation, data growth, cyber security, business intelligence and analytics.

What gets very little focus however, is WHY these megatrends exist. At least, that’s what I thought until an Amazon package arrived in the post from a very thoughtful colleague.  Inside I found a gift-wrapped book entitled “Consumption Economics”, with a note saying “I thought you’d find this an interesting read”. This gem, was written and published four years ago now and makes some very pertinent points, that really drive home the answer “Why?” these particular megatrends. Much of what follows is inspired by this book.

Cloud, to the industry veteran, feels like déjà vu and a return to the mainframe era. However, there are two key differences: 1) the evolution of the internet and 2) virtualisation; that’s why we call it “cloud”… at least that’s my abbreviated version for a blog post that needs to be under 1000 words! What is talked about little in our industry is the fundamental impact of the global economic crisis.  The mantra “do more, with less” has inspired an incredible amount of innovation, leaving no industry untouched, all with the goal of being better or faster at meeting customer/consumer demands . These demands are born from consumer experience and foster high expectations. I can place an order, for almost anything I need, on my Amazon Prime account and receive a next day delivery on any item listed as Prime eligible.  Likewise, I can buy, download and watch/listen to any movie or music track within minutes, if not seconds. 

So, what’s the crux here? Businesses need to innovate quicker than ever, they need to be more tuned to their customers, responding to their needs, even predicting their needs, and their time-to-market sometimes needs to be minutes, not hours, or days. If businesses don’t do this, then their competition will and they’ll lose out. 

OK, but, I thought this was a post all about open source software? So let me start by reiterating the essence of open source: free and open collaboration with a view to producing and innovating solutions quicker, more comprehensively, and for the greater good. 

So, the fuss, is this: open source software allows organisations to benefit from innovations developed by potentially thousands of contributors from around the world, while also allowing them to develop the software for a specific use and, as the code is free (as in speech, not coffee), there is no restriction on how many times, or how often the code can be updated to deliver new features to meet customer demand. Remember, you can’t achieve this with proprietary software, developed and locked by a technology vendor. You have to wait for them to decide which innovations are relevant to the most customers; it stifles innovation and, if you read “Consumption Economics”, you’ll learn the approach ignores where the real power is; with the consumer, not the producer. 

Let me leave you with this: Open source software offers the freedom to innovate like never before, giving you the best possible chance of meeting your customers’ expectations and an even greater chance of delighting them! At Softcat, we live for delighting customers and, in the spirit of open source, we have built our own collaboration of organisations so our customers have the best, free choice and support when embarking on their open source journey, whether that includes infrastructure, mobile, middleware, DevOps, datacentre, cloud, licence compliance, or security. 


To learn more about OpenSource, make sure you join our live Q&A discussion on the 22nd Sept.