Customers ask us all the time, "why do I care about using 'open' technologies versus proprietary?" For many years this has been a challenge to illustrate due to the open source world having somewhat of an identity crisis.
So many people think of "open" as open source, which is somewhat of an enigma in the business world. Why does a business stakeholder care about what technology is used as long as it solves a business problem and is cost effective? On the surface, this sounds like it wouldn't matter, though there are many underlying factors that play here.
- Flexibility. Collaborating and communicating with customers, partners and outside resources. Proprietary platforms traditionally present technology silos (or tombs) that deliberately make it difficult to extend and integrate with other platforms. Because proprietary platforms have been around since the advent of computing, many organizations are either locked in or have no experience with open platforms.
- Cost. While open platforms are free, this should never be a "selling" point for open source. The cost of implementing and/or migrating to open platforms can be just as expensive (if not more) than proprietary platforms. However, costs involved with implementing open platforms are typically associated only with the short term. The long term advantages of using open platforms are eliminating vendor lock-in, maintenance and services fees. These costs can equate to hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually.
- Business Alignment. This is an instrumental factor and critical to the future of IT. Most open platform methodologies are built around the concepts of solving a specific need. While many proprietary platforms solve business needs, they also are big and bulky--and require many months to years to implement. Open platforms provide business agility by staying lean, having short implementation cycles, and immediate return on investment to the business.
We all know technology is slowly becoming more integrated with business every day, though there is clear evidence that not only are open platforms good for business reasons, it's also becoming the preferred method for technologies too. According to IDC, Apple's future for the iPhone doesn't look as healthy as the open platform, Google Android. Considering the momentum of Apple's iOS platform, this should be a flag for other proprietary technology companies. In a relatively short time, Google's Android operating system is leap-frogging Apple's iOS, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down. This is not unlike the desktop or server market, where the open source platform Linux, is growing tremendously.
All this being said, two of the worlds largest proprietary software companies, Microsoft and Apple, have taken huge strides in opening up their platforms. This appears to be a welcoming sign to many developers--though is it too late?