Open Source Continues its March into the Enterprise

Recently, Microsoft – for years the sworn enemy of open source – announced that it was open sourcing it’s .NET Framework, the underpinning of the vendor’s tools and solutions for web services, SOA and cloud.

Open source has become a ubiquitous part of the enterprise landscape.  Once considered to have some degree of risk, even the most risk-averse industry on the planet – insurance – is embracing it in various ways.

In one notable example, for instance, Progressive Insurance was reported in CIO as employing open-source data analytics software to measure customer response to its online advertising strategy. Hadoop, the open source framework for analytics, has actually found its way into many insurers’ big data shops. There are also countless servers running Linux open-source software.

A couple years back at this site, I ran a list of the open source options now available to insurance companies that enabled them to run a good portion of their business operations in the open source realm. Since then, many of the offerings have only improved, along with comparable enterprise customer-service options.

These include LibreOffice and OpenOffice for front-office productivity tools, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Ingres for databases, Pentaho for decision support, SugarCRM and Hipergate for customer relationship management, Apache Lucene, Opentext, Filenet, and Documentum for content management, and RedHat JBoss as an application server.

While open source applications specifically for the core functions of the insurance industry are still few and far between, there are a few options, such as OpenUnderwriter.

The main issue with open source is that while the software provides all the components needed for IT operations, expertise is needed to pull it all together for the business. But there’s always a good case to be made for open source, and often, this comes right from commercial IT vendors themselves. Prashant Parikh of CA Technologies, for instance, recently posted the reasons why open source makes sense.

Open source promotes agile methodologies: "Open source allows anyone to add in features they think are needed. It is inherently always in front of the customer,” Parikh says,

Open source solutions are built by some of the most talented developers on the planet. It "employs the whole population of software developers to work on the projects they like,” Parikh says. “The result is it has the best of the talent and the most motivated people working on it. What’s more, the results are amazing.

Open source software is more secure and reliable. "By definition, open source goes through more scrutiny and more testing than commercial software since it is open. Anyone can use it, test it and provide feedback. At the same time, anyone can help improve it and fix the issues. And if it passes all of that – it becomes widely accepted and used."

Open source is built on the latest languages and tools. "The community support from endless lists of libraries is really amazing. It is like apps for smart phones – without them, the smart phone isn’t that smart." 

Open source is constantly being improved. "The rich set of tools and software available in open source helps other software developers be more productive and get up and running fast. This creates a productive loop or pay-it-forward attitude with people using open source for their projects and eventually donating back to the community when they have a chance. In fact, GPL can be seen as a legal implementation of this concept."

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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