Within the current tough economic climate in South Africa, businesses need to consider ways to optimise operations and cut costs in order to survive and thrive. For most companies, regardless of size, computer programmes and software are central to business operations. And depending on a company’s industry or business function, this could mean a large number of different software programs.
These programs come at a cost, (often a substantial one), as well as a whole range of other complex and technical needs. As such, a key way to reduce business operational costs would be to find digital solutions that are more cost effective, as well as improve business efficiency in the long run. One such solution is the use of open source software.
What is open source software?
Originating in the 1950s, open source is a type of software with 'open source code' – meaning that anyone can view, inspect or modify the code. This differs from other types of software codes that can only be modified by the owner or creator – such as the person, team or organisation that developed it – or by signing a (usually paid-for) licence agreement.
However, in the 1990s, developers were revolutionising the tech industry through collaborative efforts aimed at creating universally available open source software – free of charge. This was driven by a passionate belief that source code should be freely available for use by all people. Their ideals were met with strong opposition by industry giants. Regardless, they stayed on mission and a robust global open source movement took shape.
Expansion of open source technology
With literally millions of individual developers creating hundreds of thousands of software applications through the use of open source since then, the field has grown massively – far exceeding the pace that could be achieved via professional institutes or large enterprises alone. Currently, open source technology forms a part of virtually all IT applications and devices on the planet, and even runs the internet.
However, it is important to understand that open source projects are not only about collaborations between independent developers. Far from it. Large, even epic, collaborations take place constantly, including those by global giants such as AT&T, Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom. These telecom companies partnered with the Linux Foundation to formulate custom solutions related to needs such as the creation and deployment of networks.
And its not just tech-focused companies that rely on open source technology – it forms a central component to everything from manufacturing and engineering to education and client services. Examples include car manufacturing companies that use open source solutions and high performance computing (HPC) to monitor and manage the billions of critical interactions related to vehicle safety.
Open source technology is also directly involved in life saving mechanisms such as advanced predictive, early warning systems that signal approaching severe weather conditions. These systems capture data from thousands of sensors situated under water, on mountains and glaciers, and even near the earth’s core, and provide valuable advance warnings that lead to the early mobilisation of rescue and evacuation teams, preventative tactics and governmental organisations.
For these types of large-scale open source driven projects to take place, there has to be collaboration and strategic alignment between major professional organisations. A community in excess of 100 foundations (including the Linux Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the Apache Foundation) has come together to promote a company-neutral agenda for open source initiatives. The foundations host the development of code, sponsor research within the field and enable better collaboration between consumers of open source technology. The hallmark of the joint foundation structure is an assurance that no single company controls a project, and instead, multiple companies form part of the feedback loop and contribute to it.
How open source solutions drive business objectives
While these uses of open code are impressive, what does it mean for the average South African business? Well, it offers a well of benefits that vary on each business’s needs and model. These include being more cost effective, having more stable and secure IT infrastructures, fewer technical glitches and offering faster fixes. It also means less resources are invested in IT teams being trained to operate and maintain complex software.
Larger business enterprises can save millions by using available applications instead of custom developing their own. Since time and money spent on development is reduced or eliminated, companies can instead focus on innovation and business advancement. Open source also supports more agile and integrated business models that allow the business to adapt and evolve far more quickly and easier to changing industry and consumer trends.
Open source solutions for business
With the expanding use of open source technology, companies specialising in providing stable open source solutions for businesses evolved. Such companies vet open source software and offer stable and reliable applications that businesses can then adopt and use with confidence. This mitigates risk for businesses, as well as ensures that they implement the best system for their particular business and IT operational needs.
The use of trusted open source solutions can revolutionise business functioning for South African companies – boosting performance, efficiency and innovation goals. It offers exciting possibilities for business growth, collaboration, diversification and being a disruptive force within their industry. As the use of open source technology continues to increase in South Africa, there will be more and more companies being able to compete on a global scale – contributing to economic growth and development across all industry sectors.
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