What does “Open” mean and Why Does it Matter?

Ever since the dawn of Open Source as a hobbyist endeavour when the computing era started, the philosophical benefits of being “open” have been touted as a way to increasing sharing and collaboration, thereby advancing the benefits of technology more quickly. Traditionally, computing incumbents, like IBM and Microsoft, in the 1980s and 1990s were adverse to open platforms and software as it made monetisation of their IP difficult.

Open now is a movement that seems to be gaining ever increasing momentum, and even inside billion dollar Enterprise technology providers. For example, IBM has made it’s POWER architecture open. POWER, and IBM’s new mainframe offering LINUXOne now also support Linux, an open source operating system. These moves would have been incomprehensible to IBM 30 years ago, so what’s changed?

How does Open help the Enterprise and modern CIO?

Open solutions don’t mean “free” solutions, but ultimately open platforms and software do lead to a reduction in costs and expenses for a few reasons.

First of all, open leads to more options. A classic example is the database space. It wasn’t that long ago that a tiny handful of big players dominated Enterprise database platforms. However, the field has opened up considerably with a number of workloads being offloaded to platforms specific to task. Database platforms like MariaDB, Redis and MongoDB are finding homes inside the Enterprise.

Of course in the software world, open software comes with challenges. What version to use? Who will support the software and how? Does the software need to be modified?

The open model wasn’t initially an apparent contender for the hardware space, but IBM’s OpenPOWER initiative with almost 150 hardware partners like Google and nVidia, is providing choice across the POWER architecture to the point that Rackspace is building out their own Power Platform.

However one of the core benefits of “open” is being able to build exactly what the Enterprise needs. Proprietary systems generally come in a set of flavours, and you get to choose one of those flavours. Open systems across hardware and software can be tailored to create the exact fit solution for the business requirement. That means not paying for features that aren’t used, or dealing with limitations. Gone are the days where different hardware platforms also meant different operating systems and applications. With virtualisation now software and Operating Systems mostly behave the same way across all platforms.

If managed well, this means Enterprise IT departments can better deploy their resources on value creation rather than support.

Open is no longer the domain of hobbyists and enthusiasts. There’s a clear Enterprise benefit to being Open, and at ISI we’re across those benefits in Open Source software like Linux on the new OpenPOWER and z13 architecture.