Open Source: It's More About Consistency Than Cost

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 05, 2016


There was a time when enterprises and IT providers shunned the idea of open source. Many even saw it as a threat as they were apprehensive of sharing their very own programming innovations with others. Today, after nearly 20 years of its inception, open source is in vogue and has been adopted by some of the biggest IT vendors and their clients. 

CXOtoday caught up with Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Country Head at SUSE India, who explains what’s driving enterprises to embrace open source and the challenges they are facing in the process. A pioneer in open source, SUSE has been giving back to the open source community in many ways one of which is open build service which is a platform for the developers to compile software packages for multiple Linux distributions. Excerpt.

- Do you see a lot of large enterprises switching to Linux? How this transition is going to help these businesses?

Previously, Linux was considered to be the right fit only for small to medium-sized operations. But today, businesses, irrespective of their size and verticals, are porting their applications to Linux. Rapidly growing businesses and their IT departments typically deal with several distributed servers, running a wide variety of mission critical and lightweight applications. This results in ever-increasing hardware, software, data center, systems management and business support costs. In such a scenario, the move from proprietary OS to Linux is a prevalent decision.  Moreover, IT organizations are increasingly being compelled to accomplish more with fewer resources.

There are plethora of reasons for migrating from proprietary (UNIX) to Linux, with reduction of the total cost of ownership being just one of them. What we need to understand is Linux provides optimal performance and reliability. The inter-operability is high and there is more freedom and flexibility than using a proprietory software. There are other advantages like it has less downtime risk, it is more secure and has and there is no need of antivirus and updating is done much faster. Hence it is becoming a choice for large enterprises.

Despite the momentum, some businesses are still wary of using open source solutions? What could be the reason for this?

Some IT and business leaders are still not completely comfortable with the idea of using open-source products. And when it comes to the cloud, these concerns seem to point toward the security and overall maturity level of open source. People feel that since the code is available to public, anyone can alter/modify it and being on cloud makes it easier for the intruders.

Actually, most of the enterprises rely on cloud to enhance their IT investments. While there are a good number of commercial offerings on the market for building cloud infrastructure, organizations are opting open source as it offers flexibility and cost savings in cloud computing. The interoperability that open source solutions allow is unmatched by proprietary solutions available today.

Currently, over 50% of applications are stored on cloud incorporate open source software.  Applications that are deployed on clouds run either entirely on open source or have a significant amount of open source technology in them. As the demand for cloud computing goes up, users have also increased in numbers and hence created a considerable increase in demand for open source technologies. Additionally, open source allows greater customization to meet individual requirements and can build a differentiated cloud service to meet customers’ needs.

So,  do you think that use of open source solutions is bringing a change in enterprise? Can you give some examples.

Believe it or not, the popularity of open source is growing rapidly in the corporate world. The ‘free’ nature of open source helps vendors to build codes at a lower cost. And hence, open source makes good economic and technical sense, but as I’ve said earlier, it has little to do with cost. The most important factor is consistency.

With open source, experts can develop different software and platforms that are compatiblewith each other. This provides assurance for enterprises that even if vendor’s business operations are always supported.

Another driving force behind the rise of open source is workforce. With the open source community, we have access to a large pool of talent. For example, OpenStack- the open source cloud computing platform - enables collaborative development on a global scale by allowing experts to make their ideas public.

Additionally, if you consider the development environment, you’ll see that enterprise software vendors like SAP use SUSE Linux and then get it ported to other platforms. Organizations that prioritize high availability of data like German Air Traffic Control, Bombay Stock Exchange, NSDL, UCX, IOCL etc. run on open source. Moreover, building PaaS and SaaS require high scalability, which OpenStack and cloud offers. Consider T-Systems which have been doing this for years. Inside an enterprise, it helps to improve resource utilization beyond what virtualization can provide. While virtualization provides 50% utility, cloud can provide 80% utility.

How does Software-Defined Storage address enterprise data center and cloud?

Today, organizations are jostling with the ever-growing demands of data storage, which in turn are driven by enormous growth in the amount of data created.  To meet these demands of data growth, organizations are heading to new storage technologies such as large physical storage arrays, archival solutions, cloud services, etc. But all these solutions come with additional concerns, management overhead, and costs.

In such scenario, software-defined storage will do to data centers what Linux has done to enterprise UNIX. Moving to a software-defined storage model will help reduce costs and strengthen barriers to entry.  Companies are increasingly moving workloads to the cloud, and that trend looks likely to continue. As the evolution of the data center and cloud continues, storage is experiencing a physical infrastructure shift. Currently, IT firms are looking for ways to achieve maximum productivity by making their infrastructure operate efficiently. Besides, instant scalability of the cloud makes organizations highly agile.

In short, Software Defined Storage separate the physical storage plane from the data storage (or control plane). This approach eliminates the need for proprietary hardware and can generate upto 50% cost savings compared to traditional arrays and appliances. Significant research by IT analysts & consultants has indicated that the software-defined storage market is expected to be worth at least $5 billion by 2018.

Please tell us about SUSE’s involvement in the open source community.

We’ve had over 21 years of enterprise-level open source development and we are the original provider of the enterprise Linux distribution and the most inter-operable platform for mission-critical computing. We have taken several initiatives to help users understand the importance of open source, simultaneously making it available for them.

 We were constantly involved with the open source community and SUSE has many ‘firsts’ to its credit. It was the First enterprise OpenStack Cloud distro, the first Linux on Mainframe and also the first Linux to make KVM and Xen available. Alan Clark, a SUSE employee and a member of the Linux Foundation board, is the Chairman of the OpenStack Foundation. SUSE is also one of the eight Platinum Members who provide a significant portion of the funding to achieve the Foundation’s mission of protecting, empowering and promoting the OpenStack community and software. This also means that SUSE holds a seat on the Board of Directors of OpenStack Foundation.

With a portfolio centered on SUSE Linux Enterprise, we power thousands of organizations around the world across physical, virtual and cloud environments. We are committed to deliver the highest quality Linux support and innovative products for enterprises. SUSE continues its unwavering focus on the benefits of open source and the needs of its commercial partners and customers.