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Blog: The future of open source tools

16/09/16

Open source tools have a strong place in the application quality market and continue to grow. Tools such as selenium, cucumber and JMeter, have inundated the market. Every developer seems to be using them one way or another.

Gartner forecasts that open-source technology will be included in 85% of all commercial software packages by 2016 and 95% of mainstream IT organisations will leverage some element of open source tools.

Here is a list of 10 reasons why we think Open Source tools are here to stay.

1. Cost

Perhaps the most obvious advantage of open source has always been cost. With traditional closed source vendors after the initial purchase cost there are ongoing maintenance and support costs which are often a significant percentage of the initial price. Close sourced vendors have traditionally claimed that getting the same level of support for open source tools was so expensive the cost differential was minimal. With the growth of large online support communities that argument is now difficult to justify.

2. Security

As the source code is freely available to all identifying security flaws is much easier than with closed source software. Because open source software is generally a community effort, once identified, anyone with the relevant skills can fix the software and then make the changes generally available, without relying on manufactures release schedules etc. Of course you’ll only be secure if you remember to keep up-to-date with all these changes so you must have a process in place to patch regularly!

3. Customisability

With access to the source code if you have open source software that doesn’t work quite how you’d like you have the ability to change it.  Moreover, development teams have the ability to take an existing product and adapt it to their own needs – numerous open source projects have begun life as a ‘fork’ of an existing open source project.

4. Interoperability

Open source software is often much better at adhering to open standards than closed source software is, as there’s no financial incentive to tie you into a specific product line. If you value interoperability with other businesses, computers and users, and don’t want to be limited by proprietary data formats, open source software is definitely the way to go.

5. Continuity

When you choose a tool, open sourced or not, you’re likely to make a large investment in it – not necessarily monetarily, but in terms of time, effort and resource. The likelihood is that changing tools will be difficult and time consuming. If a tool vendor stops supporting a tool, or even worse shuts up shop, then you can be forced to move tools as it’s difficult to support and fix the tool yourself. Not so for open source – having the source code de-risks your decision. Even if the team behind a tool close the project you still have the source, so have a much better chance of keeping things working.

6. Licencing

With closed source commercial tools not only do you have to pay for licences but the vendor gets to set the rules as to how you use them. Open Source is generally free from restrictions. Most open source projects embrace a ‘do what you want’ ethos.

7. Adoption

There is a virtuous cycle at work with open source tools. The more they’re used the more people gain knowledge and experience with them – as a result the more they’re used. This has been a preserve of the larger tools vendors for years, driven by large education and certification efforts. As the open source skills become easier and easier to find in the market place then the virtuous cycle will continue.

8. Support

With closed open source there’s generally a large, enthusiastic community willing to give up their time for free to support and guide others. They’re not tied to corporate SLA’s, but that’s a two way street, there are no rules that say your call for help will be dealt with in a given time frame, but equally there are no restrictions on the help you can receive. You’re far more likely to get a response from the person that wrote the code with open source than you are with closed source.

9. Feature Overload

Traditional vendors are driven by sales – more features, bigger products to drive more sales. As open source focuses on the tools’ used not feature growth, they typically give a consistent, fuss free experience. When vendors do step back and make wholesale change they’re tending to look to open source – either to embed in their software or to follow their standards.

10. Acceptance

Large organisations have generally been risk averse and comparatively cash rich – an expensive closed source tool with all the implied vendor support was a much safer option than the risky open source alternative. But open source is everywhere. It’s on your phone, it runs all your smart appliances, it may well even be in your car. As we’re surrounded by open source, and organisations are more cost conscious that perceived risk is much diminished. Whereas open source would have been ignored in favour of the large, costly ‘industry leader’ open source is now often the first stop on the tools selection process.

 

 

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