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Are you powering your business with open source tech? Here’s why you should

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If open source is not already an integral part of your IT strategy, then it’s time for a re-think. Today’s open source solutions are just as secure and feature rich as the proprietary offerings in the market and come with many added benefits.

Of course some might espouse the cost efficiencies of open source but for many organisations, the decision to adopt open source technologies has more to do with capability and community. For starters, open source is inherently flexible, removing vendor lock-in and providing code which can be customised or extended to meet a particular need. This flexibility is essential for rapid innovation and also adding new capabilities within already complex IT environments.

Open source technologies are also highly scalable, making it easy to spin up a proof of concept and then deploy it to the wider business later on. Along these lines, many providers offer plugins and cloud-based services and support which can be adopted as business needs evolve.

What people are saying about open source tech

Alberto Resco, Engineering Manager at Singapore-based Shopback, said that he enjoyed the ability to get a solution up and running in just hours without paying anything up front. The start-up offers consumers across Southeast Asia, Taiwan and India the opportunity to earn cashback on purchases made via its website. Most of its operations run on open source technologies, including the search for its website which is powered by Elasticsearch, a popular open source project from Elastic.

Alberto said, “We look for technologies that are easy to configure and easy to use but we also like knowing we can pay for support and plugins where required. Also, if there’s something I need to do but I can’t do it myself, I can put it out to the community.”

The communities behind open source technologies are an important source of innovation and support. Just visit GitHub and you’ll get a feel for the size of the open source community. There are in some cases millions of users collaborating around the same technologies. Improvements are frequent and flaws resolved quickly.

A platform for innovation

Open source technologies also provide an ideal platform for innovation. Solutions can be customised and used for a wide variety of use cases. Take Elasticsearch for example. The open source search solution powers search and real-time analytics, feeding into use cases for banks, dating apps and even space exploration.

The technology is at the very centre of Lexer, a Melbourne-based start-up which helps clients generate actionable insight from massive amounts of data. Its business provides real-time, actionable insights and with Elasticsearch it’s able to let users search across billions of documents and get the results they need within seconds.

Aaron Wallis, founder of Lexer, said one of the benefits of using an open source solution was being part of the community and being able to provide input on the direction and maturity of the product.

“Lexer is almost exclusively built on open source. It’s fundamental to our culture and we are starting to get more involved in the progress of particular technologies. This includes testing betas and patches which ultimately helps us to be more agile and consume new products and updates very easily. Also, as a company who takes security very seriously, it’s good to be able to review the code supporting our own technology.”

Aaron also said that while Lexer paid zero for software, cost should be quite low in the agenda for companies evaluating open source. “You need to be prepared to put in the work to make open source work for you. For us, that’s meant investing in really talented developers who can make the right decisions for our platform. We also pay for subscriptions for solutions like Elastic so we can get the support we need when we need it and expert and timely advice.”

Mark Walkom is the Solutions Architect for the Elastic ANZ team

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