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3 reasons business users are getting serious about open source

The 90s were notorious for memorable technology marketing campaigns, but none were quite as momentous as the Intel Inside campaign. That short jingle I can still hear ringing in my ears to this day signified a shift (albeit one pushed by marketers) in how consumers perceive technology. Up until that point, nobody cared about what type of semiconductor chip was inside their computer.

Intel challenged that idea, proving that behind-the-scenes technology should matter to consumers. In time, consumers began to seek out Intel as a mark of quality when buying a new computer. For decades, Intel dominated the personal computing market and drove sales for their partners. 

Like consumers, business users are having a similar realization about their business operations. They’re becoming more and more interested in what technology is powering their operations. Enter: open source. 

Even though developers have driven the adoption of open source, business users are becoming more attuned to the inner workings of their technology stack. In the coming months and years, open source will matter even more to business users. Here’s why:

Open source technology is good in a recession.

Economists are projecting that the next recession is on the horizon, which means that many organizations will be looking to cut costs and drive efficiency in any way possible. If you look at the last two major economic recessions in the U.S. (in 2000 and 2008), the tech industry overall was hit hard, while open source grew. Before 2009, 2000-2002 was the largest period of growth for open source technology in the enterprise. And from 2008-2009, shares of Red Hat, the largest independent open source company at the time, steadily climbed while proprietary companies including Microsoft and Oracle continued to backslide.

Open source technology companies perform better in a recession because they offer enterprises a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and higher return on investment (ROI) relative to proprietary software alternatives. A look at open source database company MongoDB proves this point, offering an 80-84% lower TCO per server in three years versus its proprietary competitor, Oracle. And, according to a recent Total Economic Impact (TEI) study from Forrester Consulting, based on a financial analysis of multi-year customers, Acquia delivers a 316% ROI to enterprises that deploy its technology for websites and digital applications (versus their prior use of legacy systems and agencies). Many other open source companies are crushing the competition on TCO and ROI in similar ways, which will help them fare well in the next recession. 

Open source allows for faster innovation.

Ask any business user if they want to increase the pace of innovation in their organization, and you’re likely to hear a resounding “yes.” You’re only as agile as your technology stack, so if you’re using open source, your organization is already at a significant advantage. 

Proprietary companies simply cannot keep up with the pace of innovation that happens within open source communities. Many communities experience the benefits of a global talent pool of open source developers, who are constantly working to maintain and improve the code base. In fact, many organizations pay developers to contribute to open source communities, including Acquia. According to an AngelList survey, open-sourcing code is one of the top ways to attract development talent, with more than half of the most-applied-to U.S. startups hosting open source projects.

Open source puts more eyes on security.

Many proprietary software companies still try to spread FUD around increased open source security risks, when in fact, the opposite is true. According to a Purdue University study, open source communities have more eyes on security vulnerabilities and risks, and issue patches faster than proprietary software. Bug bounties are also becoming increasingly common in open source, with the European Commission offering funding just this year for 14 open source bug bounty programs.

Although it’s up to the organization itself to install the most up-to-date security patches provided by open source communities, open source companies offer support to automate this process and reduce the overall risk of vulnerability. In these cases, it’s a no-brainer to choose open source from a security perspective. 

Just like the infamous Intel Inside campaign, more and more, business users will be asking engineering teams if there’s open source inside their tech stack. The business case is clear. It’s about time for business users to demand to know what’s behind the curtain.

By Tom Wentworth