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Open-source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. It promises better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.
Until recently this was a radical idea to many business people. Many believed that open-source software was not necessarily "professional", that it was shoddily made and more prone to failure than closed software, but the foundation of the business case for open-source is its high reliability.
The open-source model has a lot to offer the business world. It presents a method by which companies and individuals can collaborate on products that none of them could have developed alone. It offers the opportunity for rapid bug fixes and implements the changes that the user asks for to a specified schedule.
The open-source model also means increased security; because code is in the public view it will be exposed to extreme scrutiny, with problems being found and fixed instead of being kept secret until the wrong person discovers them. In January 1999, attackers were able to plant a Trojan Horse version of the TCP/Wrappers tool on a well-known FTP site; since source code was available, the back door was quickly noticed and removed. Contrast this with a monolithic operating system like Windows 2000, which has tens of millions of lines of secret, bug-ridden code. Without access to the source code, customers are 100% reliant on the good will and competence of the Microsoft Corporation, a reputation for self-serving behaviour. And last but not least, it's a way that the little guys can get together and have a good chance at beating a monopoly.
Of all these benefits, the most fundamental is increased reliability. If this concept still seems a little abstract, think about how closed sources made the Year 2000 problem worse, and how they may very well have killed your business. Open-source software is peer-reviewed software; it is more reliable than closed, proprietary software. Mature open-source code is as bulletproof as software gets.
Here at I-COM we believe in these principles, and thus chose Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP (LAMP) as an underlying platform for our bespoke online applications. LAMP platforms give us the advantage of higher flexibility, scalability and interoperability with other systems over closed system platforms like .NET. We did our homework and went with mainstream web providers. The clear leader amongst web servers used by the million busiest websites is Apache with a 66% share. It has a 47% lead over its closest competitor, Microsoft-IIS, much greater than on the web as a whole.
Server Share amongst the Million Busiest Sites, March 2009
PHP and MySQL database are business ready applications used
by some big names like:
Bell Canada and Montréal Exchange www.bell.ca
Fiat Group Automobiles SpA www.fiat.com
in ticketing www.inticketing.com
IBM Research & Development Labs
United Press International www.upi.com
Virgin Mobile www.virginmobile.fr
As a Project Manager, I had the opportunity to manage projects developed on LAMP, ASP and C# .NET. Due to problems with integration of legacy systems to .NET, which caused projects to overrun and incur extra costs, I became an open-source advocate. It is blindingly obvious to anybody with business sense that a project based on open-source platforms can be integrated and customized much more easily, which means that the main project concludes successfully prior to the project deadline. Project overruns not only cause extra costs to I-COM, but are damaging to our clients, as our products are seen as important marketing tools.
Since I joined I-COM International Limited, I have been pushing forward open-source platforms by using LAMP. We have developed our own libraries of Object Oriented code, which enables us to build robust solutions for every client, and are building bespoke applications based on clients’ own business models, which prohibits us from reusing code. But as mentioned above, time spent on a project is reduced by using well-tested, underlying platforms which we can rely on.
The other issue with closed proprietary code is, that users end up in a "locked-in" situation, as there may not be any support from proprietors after the product life cycle is over, and any further scaling or extension is not within original software scope. This is another benefit of the open-source applications, as the user is in control of the source as well, and can freely move around, maintaining it themselves in case the product support ceases for any reason. We have seen many businesses buying off-the-shelf products or online services, where they do now own the software, data or have to pay torturous premium charges for support. With the open-source application you can opt for your own support, or pay developers to support the product. IMHO the open-source software business model is fairer, friendlier and more ecological then the closed proprietary one.