Open source should come first when choosing new enterprise IT, report says

Open source software can replace proprietary legacy systems even in demanding fields such as transaction processing, report says

Businesses that want to trade in their old systems for new IT should consider moving to open source first before thinking about a proprietary system, according to a report commissioned by transaction processing services provider Amadeus IT Group.

While a transition from closed and proprietary systems to an open approach can be time consuming and challenging, businesses should consider making the move, according to the report Open for business.

Open source software and IT infrastructure are ready to be used as critical computing systems in the enterprise, said British IT specialist and study author Jim Norton in a blog post announcing the report.

By migrating to open source, enterprises can benefit from greater and swifter innovation, improved supplier responsiveness and enhanced systems accessibility and support, Norton wrote.

A new generation of programmers has grown up with the Internet and open source software, and would rather work with open systems and tools than closed and proprietary approaches, which are seen as more limiting, according to Norton. The new generation is skilled and motivated and likes to work with open systems such as content management platform Drupal, cluster computing tool Hadoop or JavaScript library jQuery, he added.

IT providers and enterprises can benefit from their expertise, he said.

Another advantage is the lower total cost over the lifetime of the use of the software, Norton said. While open source software is usually distributed under a free license, enterprises still must pay for maintenance and system management. While analysis should be carried out on a case-by-case basis, industry lore is that it is possible for enterprises to save around 20 percent, Norton said.

But moving to open systems is not always easy, said Norton. Enterprises should maintain common development teams across existing and replacement systems for instance, according to the report. Older systems need to be progressively retired, while the staff responsible for supporting the old systems are trained in maintaining the new system to avoid them becoming a "stranded asset," Norton said.

Furthermore businesses must be realistic about costs, staffing and timescales. Moving to an open system is "neither quick nor easy," he said. "Only transfer what you need and absolutely minimize new development during transfer."

"Nonetheless, the case for embracing open source software is compelling, both from a business and a technology perspective," wrote Norton, adding that even in demanding high-volume transaction processing environments, open systems have proven not just fit for purpose, but critical to helping industries as diverse as financial services, banking and transport to adapt and transform how they operate.

"Open systems will be crucial to underpinning the winning commercial strategies of the future in all sectors," said Norton.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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