Procurement practices using vendor lock-in technologies may thwart the ability to change with mission objectives and cost-efficiency of IT modernization initiatives, resulting in slowing the government agencies’ ability to face new challenges. Fueled by misconceptions, open-source solutions used to be overlooked as viable alternatives to proprietary software within large enterprises. With the successes of Linux, Java, Apache, ArkCase, Drupal, WordPress, Alfresco, Nuxeo, and many others, open-source technologies have proven to be secure, cost-effective and scalable alternatives for enterprises looking to modernize their systems.
The agency conundrum: Do more and spend less
The growing workload of many agencies rests on outdated, proprietary IT systems that are not flexible enough to respond to new opportunities and challenges. Whether it’s functionality limitations, compute limitations, or the inability to harden against cyber threats, the solutions of yesteryear are the challenges of today that prevent agencies from future-proofing.
To add to the difficulty, cost is always a key ingredient in any agency procurement process. Since public funds means public responsibility, agencies face the challenge of maximizing their IT investments
The budgetary weight of vendor lock-in fueled by open source myths
There may be multiple valid reasons why an organization would select a proprietary software over open-source software, but one of the most persistent myths surrounding open-source software is security. The argument for increased vulnerabilities in open-source software may have been some merit for solutions that are in grassroots stages or no longer supported by the community. However for actively supported software, these security vulnerabilities are quickly identified and solved, precisely because the source code is public and everybody can contribute. In this regard, a community of developers can grow and strengthen an open source software much faster than a company with limited resources.
Mostly because of a wide user base and usually large support communities, open source solutions tend to grow faster. This growth can be in:
- Versatility, by attracting more solution providers who build their add-ons for specific or core functionality improvements.
- Code quality, thanks to different contributors collaborating on code sections, leveraging years of experience by developers from different industries and walks of life.
- Security, because of vigilant peer review surrounding new updates, new features, code refactoring etc.
This is not to say that open source solutions are by default the better choice in every use case. Organizations will still want to do their due diligence in knowing who the contributors/developers of that software are, what was done with the code, how the software evolved, and what is the rate of response from the community.
Open source is the new normal
In 2016, the White House initiative to promote open source resulted in a growing repository of code that is developed by, or for government agencies. This formidable index of projects that are completely open source is an excellent resource for developing cost-effective solutions.
The private sector has not been idle either. Large companies are becoming leaders in open source projects. Open source solutions offer agencies reliable platforms that allow for interconnectivity and compatibility to new AI/ML solutions while making those business solutions more streamlined, says Christine Cox, regional vice president federal sales for SUSE.
The global phenomenon of acceptance toward open source has grown significantly. Most of the governments in the world have opened up to the open source software initiative.
Open source brings connectivity, flexibility and cost-efficiency
Using open source technologies allows agencies increased interconnectivity, safely and reliably bringing secure data across multiple cloud environments. This helps agencies to automate repetitive data processing and management tasks, streamline business processes, and cut costs at the same time.
By using open source front and center, agencies benefit on several levels:
- Lower IT expenses: when using open source software as a base, any company can provide upgrade and maintenance services. This opens up the gates for competitive bidding, helping agencies in reducing costs of ownership and maintenance compared to proprietary solutions.
- Lower risk of ownership: unlike proprietary software where an agency completely depends on the current vendor, using open source relieves this risk. If an agency is not pleased with the support from the original vendor, they can opt for a different vendor that can support that open source solution.
- No user count constraints: while most proprietary solution providers impose contractual constraints on the number of users, open-source software solution providers do not normally practice this. This means that agencies can open up access to the solution as needed without facing additional licensing costs.
- Mutualization: by using open source solutions, agencies can leverage the large repository of already developed components and solutions used in other agencies. This standardization of features helps all agencies get better solutions without duplicating development work.
- Agile security: proprietary software code is owned and accessed only by the company that built it. If hackers find a vulnerability, agencies are left to the vendor’s capacity to detect, identify and remedy the situation. With open source software, this limitation is not an issue. Agencies that have heard of a vulnerability that a vendor cannot remedy, are free to get other subject matter experts and resolve the problem faster.
These are just several of the benefits that agencies gain by using open source software. Tapping into the large repository of already built software used by other agencies, combined with the flexibility of companies that provide support and maintenance, puts agencies in a liberating position, both contractually and budget-wise.
How will your organization benefit from open source solutions?
Ultimately, all this translates into improved lives of taxpayers who enjoy better service, thanks to superior software solutions maintained by agile companies, who won a bid based on quality, reliability and cost.
If your organization is considering an IT Modernization initiative, we’d love to hear from you. Our staff is ready to hop on a non-obligatory call to discuss your business needs and solutions to capitalize on these opportunities.