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FCW : March 15, 2015
testing and rigorous examination of many interested parties. Researchers and scientists of all types are familiar with the withering gaze but necessary value of peer review, which involves open and independent examination by many experts. With OSS, users in business, government and academia and even hobbyists get to look at and make judg- ments about OSS, and users are the ultimate beneficiaries. Walmart’s Eran Hammer, senior architect for the Node platform, echoes that idea and said Walmart enjoys a “signifi- cant quality and stability boost” from the efforts of early OSS adopters. Even some leaders in the national security community are taking advantage of open source and crowdsourcing. For example, the National Geospa- tial-Intelligence Agency uses OSS to help it develop apps for geospatial analysts. “While there are some security con- cerns, I believe the way we deployed this architecture really addresses those security concerns,” said Dave White, NGA’s CIO. “The risk is very manageable, but what we are getting in return is innovation, and it’s really advancing our mission.” Of course, no matter how well- trained the solution developers are and no matter how carefully scruti- nized the solution is, users might dis- cover vulnerabilities in software — whether it was developed under the closed or open model. If those vulner- abilities are in proprietary software, “the only people who can identify and fix the problem are employed by the company that wrote it,” said Gunnar Hellekson, chief strategist for Red Hat’s U.S. Public Sector Group. “They can be smart, they can be well-trained and highly skilled and use only the best of the best practices of software development, and they still couldn’t muster the number of eyeballs com- manded by a high-functioning open- source community.” In contrast, an enterprise that is supported by an expert in-house team backed by an active, well-functioning open-source community will be well served by the number and diversity of solution seekers. By the same logic, it is more dif- ficult to hide vulnerabilities in open- source code because the source is readily available. That means no party can build in a back door or other secu- rity exposure without the prospect of peer review and user examination ringing an alert for all users to see. Users of closed-source products know that they are entirely reliant on the ongoing commitment of the developer and have limited control over some of the risks involved. Independent testing methodologies and certifications can help, but they are only valid for the exact code certi- fied — not for the next version or the next patch and certainly not for the advanced features acquired separately. Healthy OSS projects are subject to constant, ongoing examination and communication among many invested parties, and that openness ben- efits all users. Growing market support The road to broad adoption of OSS has had a few speed bumps and potholes, but it has followed a well-established adoption curve, complicated perhaps by the mix of technolo- gies involved in its distribution. Nonetheless, OSS’ journey has been characterized by early adopters who were both tech- savvy and confident that they could respond to any difficul- ties. That is a proven strategy for testing new ideas. As early adopters give way to the early majority, the mar- ket is recognizing the need for professional support options to sup- plement its skills base and permit more scaled deployment. Enterprise support from qualified providers is the leading value multiplier for OSS adopters. Fortunately, a growing com- munity of support companies, staffed by experienced IT leaders, is providing first-rate services. OpenStack, Hadoop, Linux, Post- greSQL and many other open-source projects are creating new and inno- vative ways to serve business and government. OSS saves IT users billions of dol- lars every year, frees resources for other purposes and delivers better outcomes. Could OSS be the mega- trend in technology for this century? n Stephen Frost is chief technology officer at Crunchy Data Solutions. March 15, 2015 FCW.COM 31 Healthy open-source software projects are subject to constant, ongoing examination and communication among many invested parties, and that openness benefits all users. 0315fcw_030-031.indd 31 2/20/15 10:14 AM
March 30, 2015