What is Open Source?

This is the fourth post in the series which captures my notes with various CXOs during the Comprehensive Database Performance Health Check. Today we are going to discuss the various different types of Open Source (OS).

What is Open Source? opensource-1-800x449

Here are the blog posts in the series which you can read in order to learn more about this topic:

Definition of Open Source

Open Source (OS) refers to anything which general people can modify and share as its access and design are publicly accessible.

Any software where the source code was open and anyone can inspect, modify, enhance, and publish the modification was called Open Source Software.

If any organizations (or people) create any software (or application) and maintain exclusive control over it, it is called the closed source or proprietary software. They are the ones who can change anything in the software and also make a profit from it.

One of the primary and initial reasons why OS software got popular because they grant users permission to use the software for any purpose they wish. Here are a few popular examples.

Closed Source: Microsoft Office, SQL Server, AWS EC2

Open Source: LibreOffice, MySQL, CloudStack

The roots of the OS software are very old and they have been in the around for a while. The early internet was built on Linux Operating System and ApacheWeb Server. So essentially we can say that the first internet was indeed built on the OS software.

Myth – Open Source is FREE

It is very important that we clarify one very popular myth before we began talking about OS Software. Many people think that any software which is open-sourced is FREE. This is actually a big misconception. All the OS software can be sold in the open market and can also be made for profit. The purpose of keeping the software source code open is very different than making it available for the free.

There are many examples out there where the OS software is available for free to use but if you want modification or want enhancement you will have to pay to the developers of the software. In the programming world, nowadays it is very popular to keep the code open-sourced so any developer can make the modification to it and further enhance it. There are many developers who have build a popular fork from the original openly available source code.

Here are some of the examples of the commercial open-source application and services: Cassandra, Chef, Cloud Foundry, Hadoop, LucidWorks, etc.

Advantages

There are many reasons people prefer to use open source. Here are a few primary reasons.

  • Freedom
  • Control
  • Security
  • Stability
  • Community
  • Simpler Licensing Model
  • Scalability

Honestly, I could write an individual blog post on each of the advantages of the open-source software. However, I am going to keep this brief and tell you that all the advantages which are related to OS software are driven with a single philosophy of “Freedom of Choice”. One can choose the product/software one wants and if they do not like it they can modify it appropriately to fit their needs as well as if they wish they can make it available for everyone to make the further modifications.

Open Source and What Next?

In earlier times people used to have everything stored on a single computer. However, in recent times now we all very much dependent on the applications (like Dropbox) and services (like Gmail) which are hosted on the remote servers (or what we call them cloud). We will discuss the Open-sourced cloud tomorrow.

Reference: Pinal Dave (https://blog.sqlauthority.com)

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Philip Christiaan van Gass
    July 6, 2020 8:21 pm

    Hi Pinal Dave. Regarding your comments about open source software not being free, is it possible for a second developer to make modifications and then make the new version available to the public at a new price ? And if so would they have to reimburse the original developer a portion of the profits ?

    Reply
  • Dave Wentzel
    July 9, 2020 8:09 am

    So, some constructive criticism on your “open source” series. I think you missed probably the most important aspect…the “type” of open source license you use is CRITICAL to your business. Not all open source licenses are created equal and IMHO some of the license types can be used for nefarious purposes.

    Permissive licenses like MIT, BSD, and Apache can be used by anyone and generally just require attribution. GPL and especially variants like aGPL are extremely dangerous to use, especially if you are an ISV (your business is selling software). The reason is that many gpl variants have clauses that state “if you use our software in your product you must open source YOUR code to the rest of the world”. That means your IP is at-risk. Even if you aren’t an ISV you may one day wish to merge with another ISV and any good auditor will ask for something called a “Black Duck audit” (you can google that) and if they find you are using aGPL software they may not want to merge with you.

    _Some_ companies that provide gpl’d software will have a commercial license to overcome what I consider “nefarious”. What they do is threaten to sue you if you don’t open source your code or pay them. In this example gpl OSS software is definitely NOT free software. If you use OSS you need to do due diligence, especially if you are an ISV. Any company using OSS should really consider carefully researching the licensing and getting legal counsel.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave,

      Great point. I am personally not an expert on this topic so I have not much explored it.

      However, I will be very interested, if you can write a guest post on this topic.

      Reply
  • Dave Wentzel
    July 9, 2020 5:35 pm

    I wrote one like 6 years ago here: https://davewentzel.com/content/open-source-licensing/ . Others have also written exhaustively on the topic, the key thing to note for anyone that reads your blogs or finds them via a google search is to understand that you really should do due diligence in your choice of OSS if you are an ISV or you sell your software to others (the aGPL will require you to release your IP) or if you may be involved in M&A. Get your legal team involved. Always. These are not technology decisions solely, they are business decisions.

    What is interesting in your context of “open source cloud” is how the cloud vendors are exploiting the aGPL. Not much has been written on this. For instance, AWS doesn’t really “sell” their software, it is rented, so they can do things that weren’t thought about when the aGPL was thought up. AWS has forced aGPL vendors like Confluent, Redis, and Mongo to rethink their licensing. I’m not sure I agree with what AWS did specifically to Redis but, … oh well. These are fascinating stories that should be told and understood by our industry.

    And there are those proponents of the aGPL that keep saying there is nothing nefarious going on, rather they want to ensure _all_ software is free and open and the aGPL is the tool to get that leverage. I say, hogwash. You can’t force altruism and you shouldn’t try. And since it only applies to ISVs (if I use aGPL for an internal website who would ever know) this is clearly a gambit for extortion on alternative commercial licensing.

    If I should jaded or overly passionate about this it is because my company was involved in a lawsuit over this. I worked a lot of late nights and weekends rewriting our code to migrate OFF aGPL software.

    Reply

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