Predicting Future: Open Source Software Today and Tomorrow!

Posted on Saturday, November 15th, 2014 by Ishita Ankit

You know what is enough to chill the spines of software developers all around the world? A conversation that proceeds like this (Imagine being on the receiving end):

"Hey Man! Wsup?"

"Nothing Bro! Just doin' an operating system for 386(496) AT clone"

"Like, for free??"

"Yeah, just a hobby; won't be all big and professional though, just sweet. And free"

Of course, I am guessing a conversation like this might not have foreseen the advent of an era of Open Source Softwares. What it had done, instead, was to trigger the revolution in the silicon world.

Now you may ask, what really is open source software?

Basically, software consists of a source code and an object code. To make changes in a software, one needs to change the source code. Hence, the source code yields supreme power.

Now, most of our softwares, the so called Proprietary Softwares, reserve all rights to the author except a license to run the software on a customer’s (our, for example) computer. This is in stark contrast to the Open Source Software (OSS) which is distributed under a licensing agreement which allows the source code to be shared, viewed and modified by other users and organisations. And, of course it is free!

The open software boasts of an amazing efficiency in its services, such that it is almost at the verge of challenging the proprietary software in the silicon world today.

Noteworthy examples of open-source products are the Apache HTTP Server, the e-commerce platform osCommerce, internet browsers Mozilla Firefox and Chromium (the project where the vast majority of development of the freemium Google Chrome i1s done) and the full office suite LibreOffice. The GNU/Linux operating system, an open-source Unix-like operating system, and its derivative Android, are among the most successful open source software in the market today!

OSS is today making its contribution in fields of disaster management as well. The Sahana Free and Open Source Disaster Management System is an emergency management and disaster preparedness software developed by the Sahana Software Foundation.

OSS provides its users an extra degree of freedom thereby allowing them to make changes in the software, and thus enabling innovation. It attracts various skilled workers due to its open structure where more developers contribute to a piece of OSS. Here the users themselves are the innovators. Hence they are aware of the necessary changes to be made in the software to make it suit the user’s requirements. This adds on to the efficiency of OSS.

Another striking difference between OSS and proprietary is with respect to security. Since OSS is open to a variety of users and developers who are free to bring in the modifications, it is considered unsecure and prone to be infested with bugs and viruses. On the other hand, since proprietary software is developed in a controlled environment, it is comparatively secure. Heartbleed bug is a serious flaw in the OSS which allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. The fact that it remained undiscovered for 2 years also adds to the concerns.

Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of OSS, the growing application of OSS in various fields today makes it the dominating one. There was a buzz in the software world when ORCL acquired the open source cloud vendor NIMBULA. This mixing of open source platform with a bunch of other technologies to create its very own cloud platform attracted the eyes of the world which included critics, supporters as well as businessmen.

Not just ORCL, many other proprietary vendors make use of open source software: EMC has its big data product built around Hadoop and HP sees its future with Openstack.

So, perhaps, the million dollar questions today are whether Proprietary world already feels the goose bumps of the incoming tide? Will the Open source ever beat the Proprietary, in terms of usage per se?

While these are questions only time can answer, one thing is for sure:

People welcome change if they see the potential in it to be called a change.

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