19 Aug, 2019 | 3 min read

The Enduring Case for Open Source Software

  • Vichitra Godamunne
  • Associate Lead Marketing Officer - WSO2

Photo credits: Clay Banks on Unsplash

Open source software is everywhere we can think of, solving industry challenges. What had its roots in the Free Software Movement (founded by Richard M. Stallman in the early 1980s) began getting more widespread attention in the mid 1990s (think Linux) and is big business today. Which is why 2018 was such a legendary year for open source software. We all remember that early in the past year Salesforce bought Mulesoft for USD 6.5 billion, then Microsoft announced its intention to acquire GitHub for USD 7.5 billion, and the year ended with IBM acquiring RedHat for USD 34 billion. Then there’s the projection that global open source services will grow to USD 32.95 billion by 2022!

Heady numbers aside, open source has been on the “tech trends to watch for year xxx” lists for several years now in multiple publications. Its relevance will only continue to increase in the years to come. This is because transparency, community collaboration, and accessibility have always been the cornerstones of open source software from its earliest days. And ultimately these are the foundations that will contribute to its benefits:

  • The ability to change, alter, and extend the source code without depending on the vendor all the time. We’re talking freedom here - from vendor lock-in.
  • With the community playing such an important role, the transfer of knowledge is one of the biggest assets of open source. This helps you continually improve the code and fix bugs. The result - continuous improvements in standards of your software projects.
  • The lack of a need to rely on a vendor and the flexibility this gives you are precisely what makes open source more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Gives you the option to experiment - and fail and move on quickly if things don’t work as you planned.
  • As you keep experimenting, you are placed in an ideal position to innovate fast and present something new to the market.
  • Finally, in the true spirit of community, you don’t merely “take” - you also “give” back to the community and make sure that others gain from your contributions.

Here at WSO2, we’re advocates of open source and our founders were inspired by its possibilities. We’re also the biggest open source integration vendor with analyst recognition to boot. So why do we believe in an open source approach to API-centric integration?

Because there’s an approaching endpoint explosion. The world is estimated to have around a trillion programmable endpoints and APIs, and no growth of this scale comes sans issues (and opportunities of course.) There are the changing protocols, formats, and diversity of endpoints to take into account. This is where all the best things about open source will help. Increasing changes will need the help of the community, you will need to avoid any kind of lock-in (be it vendor, data, or APIs) to remain flexible, and transparency always helps with accountability and consensus.

You may have many questions (and perhaps even misgivings) about adopting open source software: “Freedom is great but do I have support if needed?” “What about security?” “In spite of the talk, how transparent is this model?” WSO2 has dedicated 24/7 support and we’ll help with your security concerns (by the way, we have an open source identity and access management solution). On the topic of transparency, we take things one step further. WSO2 makes our product/solutions roadmaps and even financials public, in-keeping with our open and transparent ethos.

So, open source is here to stay. The world today is heavily discussing emerging technologies (such as biometrics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, virtual/augmented reality) and what their possibilities will be for our politics, economy, society, and wellbeing. We’re not here to predict what sci-fi looking future awaits us. But we can tell you that open source will be an ever present constant, to be found in any emerging software project. Because in the words of Ben Balter, senior manager of product management at GitHub: “Open source is the future.”

Discover who we are and our vision for open source API-centric integration.