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Open Source Development: The Potentials

Open Source Development: The Potentials

Open source development brought about a major shift in the technological infrastructure realm. The software development process which was previously dependent on a small group of developers, who administered the complete software development lifecycle (SDLC) from managing the feature requests to handling integration processes, is now shared among distributed development communities around the world in an open source development model.

Open source development provides a landscape in which a software project is no longer constrained by management related issues like deadlines, budgets, allowing the programmers to focus on the technical issues of the project.

What is the open source development model?

In a decentralized open source development model, the software is made publicly available with open source license.

This source code is at the disposal of development communities to make improvements to its design. It’s a fluid development process with open collaboration culture and distinct periods of development activities leading to a project release.

Characteristics

The reason open source model is an emerging success story of this day and age is because of its multitude of characteristics that produce efficient and high-quality software products.

  1. Peer Production

The fundamentals of an open source model are based on peer production. Under the terms of an open source license, the software’s blueprints, documentation and source code is made available online for free.

With a collaborative effort, the programmers download, improve on the original designs and then publish (fork) their modified versions back to the community.

The increased intra-collaboration effort gives way to procuring top talent from around the world for improved and advanced code design.

  1. Funding models

With free redistributions of the software source code, creators require alternate ways to fund the development of the project.

2.1 Licenses for proprietary add-ons

In order to fund software projects, creators provide access to the software freely but sell licenses when propriety add-ons are required by companies. This promotes the beta testing and user acceptance phase of the SDLC, as consumers use free versions of the software. Additional features at the company’s request require paid subscriptions.

Open source software used in conjunction with proprietary add-ons creates a far more efficient product line.

2.2 Shared public utility

Some open source projects are beneficial to the company’s infrastructure; Linux Kernel being one of the biggest examples. For this purpose, companies employ developers to make modifications to the project, developing the software as a shared public utility rather than selling it as a product.  

Dozens of contributors from companies worldwide use the software along with researchers and hobbyist. Communities of developers make bug fixes and improvements to the software constantly which ultimately make the company’s job easier.

Open source development is also supported by Google through their Summer of Code program.

Closed source vs. Open source development model

Formal institutes including the Apache Software Foundation support the open-source movement with community projects like Apache HTTP server. In the rise of this movement, giants like Android and Google Chrome are the face of open source software development. This is the reason why businesses are increasingly opting for open source as opposed to a closed source development model.

  1. Transparent development process

A key aspect of open source development is that it is carried out in public. From decisions of product designs on forums to the bugs reported, everything is open for inspection and improvement. Through version control software like GitHub, the history of code check-ins is maintained. This allows the product developers to take valuable input from the users for product direction and functionality.

As opposed to this, a closed source development model may lead to a limitation in the propriety source code because it is closed off from end-users’ feedback in its initial stages of development.

  1. Expansive licensing model

Propriety software licenses have limited number of users and installations along with the added fee for obtaining the license. By contrast, open source license encourages wide-spread use without paying for the software’s access. This improves the exposure of the software product globally, making it easier to market once it is released.

Advantages of open source development

As businesses discover the significant advantages of open source solutions as opposed to their propriety counterparts, there is an evident shift in their mentality surrounding open source models.

  1. Improved end user engagement

When projects are made available for public use, the open source communities—comprising developers and users—engage themselves in inspecting and modifying the source code design.  The end users are increasingly involved in the development process as their feedback and suggestions help drive the product’s functionality.

  1. Extensive scaling and customizations

Commercial experts from around the world bring with them the expertise of detailed tailoring in the source code which would otherwise require plentiful resources. This makes it easier to customize the software by incorporating new technological platforms.

  1. Efficient code design—High quality software

The reason open source development has gained popularity in the world of tech development is its ability to produce well-designed software code since it is improved on by competent and accomplished individuals on a global scale.  

The culture of collaboration is driven from peer opinions and quality product as opposed to the bottom-line of the product.

  1. Abundant tech support—Frequent patches and hot fixes

Open source solutions are supported by thriving communities who have a common drive to improve and support a solution. Since these communities manage the software, users can get varied levels of support ranging from free discussion forums to paid customizable support and maintenance.

A global community of developers also means quicker trouble shooting and development in case technical issues arise. The fixes are then quickly released in updated versions of the product.

  1. Increased reliability

Open source code is far more reliable because it is backed up by a community rather an internal team within a company. This means that the source code is bound to be more robust and well tested. Guided by experts on online forums, the reliability of open source software is far superior to one developed through a closed source development model.

  1. Greater security

This method is far more secure because it is reviewed and assessed by groups of skillful experts in the field. The vulnerabilities in the software are easily exposed during its lifecycle as the community is constantly on the lookout for risks and gaps in the product. This is a big reason why companies pose no hesitation while adopting an open source solution.

  1. Easy to market

With access to architectural designs and source code submissions, the open source projects gain recognition and are explored for free. In business models where projects are marketed as Software as a Service (SAAS), companies find it easier to sell their solutions off the ground because it gains popularity among the masses beforehand.

  1. Avoids lock-ins

Open source development models avoid the possibilities of being locked-in by the technology or the vendor. Enterprises are at the mercy of vendors when it comes to flexibility and scaling since propriety solutions are aligned with the vendor’s vision and mission rather than those of the customers. Opting for true open source solutions emancipates them for providers that repackage open source software.

  1. Continued innovation and long-term viability

Motivated developers at the forefront of open source communities keep the software viable for a long period by integrating it with current technological solutions and innovations.  By removing the financial motivation of a business from the equation, open source models have a higher chance of being successful.

Success stories

With its multitude of merits, open source development is gaining acceptance in the corporate world. The success story featuring various open source software is the reason for the rapid adoption of the software model. 

GNU/Linux is the biggest achievement of the open source world while Ubuntu and Debian are the most popular open source Linux distributions.  Free open source projects like WordPress and Drupal have revolutionized the world of CMS (Content Management System). The popular open source DBMS MySql has evolved into a powerful database alternative as it is powered by large scale sites like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia.

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