The history of open source software dates back to at least the early 1980s and is rooted in the free software movement led by computer scientist Richard Stallman. At its core, open source is a type of software in which source code is released under a license that grants users the right to study, change, and distribute it freely, as they see fit.
While open source has long been a darling of startups and innovative, up and coming businesses looking for new, inexpensive features that help them compete with larger competitors, it’s quickly gained a foothold in the enterprise. Gartner research shows that today, open source software is
used within mission-critical workloads by more than 90% of IT organizations worldwide, whether they are aware of it or not.
Beyond the enterprise, open source software is found throughout the small business, education, and government sectors. The movement may have begun as a response to the savings it represents in software licensing, but today, factors leading to open source adoption also include total cost savings throughout the life of a project, rapid availability of software patches and releases, greater ownership of data, and a wider pool of development talent.
That doesn’t discount the fact that open source software simply offers a lower entry cost when it comes to software purchasing and licensing. Because many open source software titles are free, at least for the core software product, there aren’t per-seat licenses or annual renewal fees to factor in. When it comes to proprietary software, the opposite is true.
Forrester Consulting found a majority of enterprise CIOs cited “cost savings” as the reason for selecting open source software, and an even higher number report they fully realized these savings after adoption. Cost savings continue beyond the initial purchase of open source software as well. Regular updates and newly released versions of open source software
generally come without a purchase cost, continuing the initial purchase savings throughout the lifecycle of a project.
Why choosing proprietary, partially open, or open source matters.
Building on proprietary software was, in the past, lauded as more secure, better supported, and the only choice for the enterprise. However, the “closed source” nature of proprietary software often means the choices of integrations and limitations of functionality are determined by the software itself. In some cases, extensibility, customizations, and new feature development are completely left up to the software provider.
Customers do not have access to develop these areas and often must wait for the software provider to deliver requested new features or integrations. Additionally, these new features cannot deploy to production until they have been regression tested to avoid creating new bugs in the software. In other cases, proprietary systems tout having APIs for extending their platforms, yet once researched, these options often also end up being highly limited.
PARTIALLY OPEN SOURCE
With the rising popularity of open source projects, a growing number of software packages and niche service agencies are also trying to expand their sales channels by declaring a software package to be “open source.” These offerings do technically contain open source code, yet when you research
beyond the marketing material you will likely find that the vendor or creator has made certain key elements reliant on Software as a Service (SaaS) or another mechanism to lock in a customer or at least make the cost of switching away very high. These types of packages are called partially open source and these solutions are mired by many issues including:
1. The software is only supported by a very small community, often one service agency or a small group.
2. Complete areas of functionality or important dependencies are actually solved outside of the platform, on a SaaS solution.
3. Without additional customization, SaaS components create a lock-in to that vendor.
4. No control or visibility into the data ownership, privacy, and/or security of the SaaS functions.
5. Ever-increasing technical debt and deprecations in the code base that lead to higher infrastructure cost and an ever-decreasing pool of development talent.
6. Risk of feature sets being more marketing hype than reality, as a vendor’s development cycles continually run long and are not aligned with emerging technologies.
With either proprietary or partially open software, your project eventually becomes so complex or so closely integrated with the software or services, you’re “locked” into continuing to use it. This results in higher costs, problematic development, and limited choices when changes are made or needed.
With either proprietary or partially open software, your project eventually becomes so complex or so closely integrated with the software or services,
you’re “locked” into continuing to use it.
OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE
These risks can be avoided through the well-planned use of open source software, which benefits from open APIs and global adoption. PHP, MySQL, Linux, and WordPress are examples of globally adopted software with wide pools of developers, open architecture, and APIs. Software projects built on these platforms have inherent flexibility, which allows project owners to adapt the software to their own needs, even creating new in-house versions (“forks”) of the software if necessary. This flexibility is simply not available with closed, proprietary solutions.
Successful open source projects are measured by numbers of contributors (measured by the hundreds to thousands), and wide end-user adoption of the software outside one industry or subject. With this in mind, choosing to use a scalable WordPress platform as a foundation for a DXP achieves:
1. Enterprise-proven reliability.
2. Access to a large community of professional engineering talent.
3. Limited vendor lock-in.
4. Lower total cost of ownership in both development and support costs.
As referenced above, WordPress is an open source CMS that has grown immensely in popularity since its launch in 2003.
Today, WordPress is the web’s most popular CMS—it powers more than 34% of the Internet and more than 60% of CMS users choose WordPress over other CMS platforms. Within the WordPress ecosystem, there are more than 50,000 plugins available, and thousands of contributors that constantly add to its core software and provide security patches, designs,
maintenance, resources, and support.
Finally, the exploration of WordPress as a creative alternative for quickly building high-performing, scalable application platforms has also greatly expanded over the years, and the CMS has become the go-to solution for many businesses looking to build out mixed content hubs, explore eCommerce, and a wide range of other digital experiences that help
differentiate their businesses online.