Kjetil Mjøs - Technology
13 Sep, 2021 - 6 min read
Over the last years, we’ve been seeing more and more customers frustrated about the solutions available from larger manufacturers. Silo systems that don’t talk together and being locked to a specific manufacturer are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, companies still haven’t taken the steps to distance themselves from this outdated way of thinking.
Gapit delivers products and services in the gap between IT and automation. We’ve been delivering open source information management systems (IMS) since 2016 and take great pride in delivering an open solution to our customers giving them control back.
It is a paradox that people end up choosing vendor lock-in when there are open alternatives available. Hardware manufacturers often do what they can to convince you to only use their specific equipment and their amazing platform. This article will highlight some of the benefits of open source and hopefully encourage technical leaders to choose the open approach.
Why open source?
Amazing results are achieved when people collaborate. Below is a list of some great benefits of open source.
1. Avoid vendor lock-in
There is not a single company behind the system you have bought. If you buy a system and the company goes bankrupt or changes strategy you might end up with a system that is useless. If you go for an open source system there are multiple companies that can pick up and continue to help on the already established system.
2. Future proof
New upgrades are released continuously and can be updated as soon as they are released. No new licenses are needed. New functionality is added faster in open source projects than in corporate software as there is less organizational overhead.
3. Tech resources
Great people want their work to be about more than just making money. They want their work to have a purpose and serve the greater good. This combined with the ability to work with cutting edge technology is why the best resources want to work with open source. Companies developing closed source solutions will struggle more and more with getting the greatest minds onboard, which in turn will result in their products lagging behind.
4. Black box
When you buy a product from a company they have full control of it. You as a customer do not have any control. Are you sure the company you buy from only has good intentions and that no backdoor or information gathering is built in? By going the open way, you as a customer can take a more active role in the systems you are using every day. Don’t trust one company.
If there are some parts missing in the product you are using and the code is open source you can develop the missing piece yourself or hire a company to do it for you. If you paid a company for a black box solution you have to wait until the company feels it’s the right time to implement the function you need.
Licensing is often an inhibiting factor and you’ll use your system suboptimally because it is too expensive to buy all the licenses needed.
Where does the money come from?
If all open source projects are free - how do they make money? At the end of the day, open source developers have to eat too.
It's a valid question and the biggest and most successful open source projects have companies or foundations behind them taking care of paying wages.
So how do open source companies make money? And why should you pay for something that is free?
The most common reasons to pay for open source projects is:
If you are tech-savvy you can get started by yourself, but when the system you are implementing reaches a certain level of criticality in your business you need to have support. It’s important to know there is someone to call when you are on holiday.
Self-hosting is still used and will still be used forever for certain systems. But more and more companies are interested in paying for hosting to remove the overhead and complexity of hosting services themselves. Companies delivering open source solutions often provide hosting as a means to get paid for the software they have developed.
3. Additional features
Open core is a model often used where the basis package of an open source solution is available. But if you want additional features often related to business needs such as reporting and other enterprise needs you have to pay for them.
4. Automation and tooling
If you build a house most people would still pay for a carpenter. Why do they do this? It is not because the carpenter has some secret formula that makes it possible to build a house. You can easily buy all the tools you need to build a house yourself. You pay a carpenter because the person has done this before and has done all the mistakes you are going to make. The carpenter will build faster and more accurately than you can. Through experience, they know what the small mistakes in the start are, and that they’re going to turn into bigger mistakes when the house is finished. They are also up to date on best practices to make sure your house complies with the latest building regulations.
And this is exactly the same reason you should pay a company to get up and running when choosing open source. They have built automation tools to cut implementation time and human error. They can point out the important pieces when starting a project to make sure the end result is as you expect. And they make sure your system follows best practices when it comes to the implementation of security, backup, and other critical pieces of a well functioning system.
Our approach to open source
When Gapit started to offer monitoring solutions we wanted to leverage open source software to offer our customers the best possible solution and at the same time help open source communities excel. This is why our developing philosophy is to build around open source, all the way from the start. We take an active role in helping the open source products we use by submitting bug issues and code fixes. Our thought is that if they grow - we grow, which in turn helps our customers getting better solutions.
One crucial question technology leaders should ask themselves before starting the development of a new product, is how are we going to get our money back if someone starts to offer this type of product for free?
A great example here is Grafana. They have built a monitoring and analysis tool for time-series data which have in record time become the industry standard when it comes to monitoring and visualization. If your company has invested a lot of money in developing your own product, you are going to have a hard time earning back your investment. Your customers will ask "why should I pay for your product which is vendor lock-in, license based and closed source when I can have Grafana for free"? Even the best salespeople in the world are going to have a hard time convincing people.
We at Gapit develop tools and plugins for some of the greatest open source projects within the time-series data world. This puts our customers at the forefront of technology and makes sure they continue to be in front as technology progresses.
The next time you’re implementing a new system, do as Gapit - choose openness.