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What is Open Source and why should developers consider this route for web applications?

07/04/2017

What is Open Source?

Open source is software that is freely available for individuals and businesses to use, modify and enhance. Software that falls into this category includes Java and Linux.

What puts people off using Open Source?

Some people perceive that there are issues with choosing the Open Source development route, for example, due to a lack of formal support. But this is actually untrue, as you can get formal support for Java or Linux, but there's a false impression out there that you can't. Look at this ComputerWorld article, for example, on the best places to learn Open Source Linux in 2017.

Another downside is fragmentation. There seem to be a bewildering amount of choice in this area - for example which version of Java to use or which flavour of Linux. Whilst it's important to make a sensible choice, there are millions of companies that have already opted for the Open Source route, so you have the wealth of their experience to make an informed decision for your project or business.

So why choose Open Source?

Let's take a closer look at some of the reasons why you might choose to take your development down the open source route.

One of the key factors in making this decision is that Open Source software is more secure, and the main driver for this is because the source code is freely available. This means that many more eyes will be cast over the code and therefore any security weaknesses will be spotted and fixed much more quickly.

It also tends to be updated more often and more quickly, than non-open source code. This speed of development leads to better quality software, where any bugs or weaknesses in the code are likely to be spotted and fixed more swiftly. The key reason for this is because you have orders of magnitude more people working on it.

Open Source software normally adheres to open, international standards, with all the benefits that brings. These include easier integration with other systems and best practice approaches.

On top of this, with Open Source you have access to the code, so if it doesn't give you what you need, it's easy to change it so that it does.

Finally, there is the great bonus that Open Source is generally free, versus increasingly expensive proprietary solutions. For example, a typical Windows-based server running a SQL Server database will cost approximately £2,500 per year in license fees. A similar Linux server running any Open Source database, like MySQL, will be completely free.

In summary, we can say that although some individuals and businesses are daunted by the choice of Open Source options available to them, there are many good reasons to consider them further. It may turn out, after all, that this is the right approach for your project.

By Daren Callow, Director, Verasseti

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