Businesses are increasingly adopting open-source software. As a result, it is predicted to become a
$50 billion market by 2026. The thriving open-source community is releasing the software and its source code to the public, allowing anyone to use, modify and distribute the software under a license agreement.
Problem in the Selection Process
Open-source software is used at every stage of software development to address various business needs. While several solutions are available for any problem, choosing the right software is getting more challenging.
Generally, the evaluation is limited to what the software can do—but ignoring how the software does that or randomly considering a few aspects can create problems like cost overruns, launch delays, or result in unplanned downtimes in the later stages of
the product lifecycle.
Solution To Do It Right
Therefore, a systematic approach is needed to look at the broader picture. This way, you can identify and carefully evaluate functional and non-functional aspects before deciding on any open-source software. Whether you are planning to offer it as a stand-alone
application or a fully integrated part of your product, the following key factors should help you with the right decision.
- License is the first and foremost factor to consider. The license accompanying a particular open-source software determines if you can change the source code, for instance, to customize or enhance functionality. In addition, the license governs its
distribution to customers with (or without) source code and concerns related to crediting the work of the original authors. Finally, the license can also mandate the contribution of the changes back to the project.
- Adequate documentation and training for the developers can make a big difference during the first integration phase and when extensibility and support are required. In addition, end-user documentation comes in handy during training and use
of the software.
- The software should comply with the company’s security policy and be regularly tested for threats and vulnerabilities.
- While an active community should support the software, if commercial support is available from a diverse set of companies, it will be a lifesaver in edgy situations. Further, it will also be needed for certain service guarantees to your customers.
Therefore, it is also crucial to check how often issues are fixed and regular updates are provided.
- Ideally, the existing skillset should work with the new software. Otherwise, find out if training is required or if required talent is readily available in the market.
- How interoperable is the software with your existing product? This assessment will pay off when you’d need to modify or extend the software.
- If market uptake is high and a large community is engaged with the software, specifically if prominent players are contributing, then the project’s
longevity is more predictable. You don’t want a crucial part to fail mid-flight!
- You need to evaluate if the software is reliable enough to withstand exceptions and compatible with fail-safe mechanisms built within the product.
- The basic license may be free, but premium features might only be available commercially. Further, there could be
costs associated with maintenance, customizations, and upgrades, which you should assess beforehand.
- You should also evaluate the software for the performance, scalability, and
usability requirements of the business.
- It’s better to ensure early that the software is flexible enough to handle unusual conditions and
customizable per the business needs. These requirements may not exist now, but later, when required, does the software support it?
- While excellent software solutions are available in open source, still it’s good practice to compare the
proprietary counterparts before you decide.
You can use various available techniques to evaluate multiple options objectively. For example, you can develop a rating system using suitable scoring criteria and assign weightage to different factors as per their relative importance.
In a nutshell, thoroughly evaluate any open-source software before adding it to your product stack. Because the right choice you make today will reward the entire team later.
- ‘Open source services market on course to become $50B industry’ (2021) VentureBeat, 21 September. Available at:
https://venturebeat.com/2021/09/21/open-source-services-market-on-course-to-become-50b-industry/ (Accessed: 3 August 2022).