Open Source Software Runs Security and Mission-Critical Systems, Cellular Phones
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Sept. 21, 2004 — Mention “open source” and most people think “Linux.”
The reality is that Linux comprises only a portion of what open source has to offer.
According to a new report by Computer Sciences Corporation’s (NYSE: CSC) Leading Edge Forum (LEF), open source applications are rapidly increasing in number and type — and they’re powering both vital government and high-volume consumer systems. The open source movement is producing tremendous gains in efficiency, cost savings and quality, as well as radically changing the way software is developed and marketed.
The report, entitled Open Source: Open for Business, details how and why open source has gained strength, provides case study examples, describes a variety of product types and offers a robust appendix of source Web sites. Open Source also contains in-depth information about little-known licensing
and legal ramifications.
At the same time, the report affirms that open source will not displace proprietary software overnight; there is plenty of good proprietary software that can and should be deployed. But open source presents an option in the information technology (IT) arsenal — growing stronger by the day — that organizations need to consider.
The lure of open source is that it’s free. Anyone can use or modify it without license fees, and no vendor can lock users in for fixes or enhancements. Considering that office suite software can cost roughly $300 per seat — or $3 million in an organization of 10,000 people — the savings can be significant.
However, savings must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Costs may decrease in one area with open source but increase in others. No license fee is just one component of the open source option.
Developers benefit from being part of a global community that recognizes and applauds their skills. Collaboration is the norm. The community shares and feeds off expertise in a culture that is about participation, not profits. This means that applications are being developed and enhanced, repurposed and debugged constantly. Organizations as diverse as Google, Deutsche Borse Group and NASA benefit by getting better products faster with limited up-front investment. Software companies get products to market faster.
“If you are spending more than $0 to acquire commodity Web server software, you are spending too much,” said Paul Gustafson, director of the LEF. “Apache, an open source product, has become mature enough and popular enough — running two-thirds of all Web servers — to make this claim.”
Contrary to what one would assume given the term, open source applications are highly secure and form the foundation for leading security software packages. CSC’s H.E.A.T. (Hydra Expert Assessment Technology) application, a security tool used to assess information system vulnerabilities across an enterprise, was developed using open source components. The company cut costs and shaved off significant development time.
“H.E.A.T. would have been developed even if we hadn’t used open source software, but it would have taken much longer and the product would not be as robust,” said Jason Arnold, H.E.A.T. program manager. Inherently secure code was critical; the developers were comfortable using open source code because so many people review it.
With these benefits, it’s not surprising that open source plays a key role in applications requiring mission-critical performance. The Associated Press, a major international news disseminator, supports hundreds of thousands of transactions a day with its MySQL database. Google handles some 200 million searches a day using more than 100,000 Linux computers spread across multiple data centers. The U.S. Navy uses the Insight system, created by CSC with more than 150,000 lines of open source code, to manage the operating environment of a large-scale, distributed, real-time computer system, saving millions of dollars in software development costs. NASA uses open source technology for its Mars Exploration Rover Mission. Motorola based its futuristic A760 “smart phone” on embedded Linux. Other uses of open source software include financial transactions, the U.S. Army’s Land Warrior program and personal identification card systems.
Linux, an open source Unix-based system, is the number two server operating system behind Microsoft’s Windows NT and is gaining momentum. Analysts predict that Linux platform revenue will increase at more than four times the overall industry average for all platforms through 2007.
Other open source software includes middleware like directory services OpenLDAP and cryptography software OpenSSL, server software like JBoss Application Server and Samba for file sharing, and even desktop software like office suite OpenOffice and the browser Mozilla Firefox. The market share of OpenOffice is growing as both organizations and consumers adopt it.
“Open source software development is agile; it enables people to bat around and release new ideas unencumbered,” the LEF report says. “In its agility, open source revolutionizes software development and fuels innovation.”
The proliferation of open source applications contributes to commercial software innovation; helps keep commercial software prices in check; promotes “co-opetition,” or competitors working together in the same direction; drives the development of standards; and has even blurred the line between proprietary and open source products.
Financial institutions in Germany are working on a common code to create cheaper alternatives to enterprise application integration (EAI) tools. Although they are competitors, each stands to benefit from less expensive and higher quality software. Licensing fees for commercial EAI products can cost companies millions of dollars.
The case for open source is strong. However, the report also offers detailed information about potential pitfalls. For example, what a company saves in license fees may be offset by increased technical support, training and transition-related costs.
In particular, Open Source examines legal issues constraining use. Open source software may be free, but it is not free of obligations. Unless the software is placed in the public domain, one’s access is subject to stated conditions of use, or license terms, determined by the owner.
Linux was made available under the General Public License (GPL). While the GPL gives organizations the right to run, modify and distribute the software, it also comes with a catch, called “copyleft.” Basically, any new work that contains, in whole or part, software licensed under the GPL must also be licensed under the GPL. So, if a development group adds even a small chunk of Linux code to its software, the source code of the new software must now be shared with everyone else. This approach pleases many but is troubling to organizations that have spent millions of dollars enhancing open source code to create their own proprietary applications.
As a result, the open source community has created a variety of licensing agreements that help companies protect their proprietary creations based on open source code. These licenses arose from the desire to ensure continued involvement of commercial organizations in open source projects, potentially increasing positive contributions.
The report closes with guidelines for assessing internal software development policies and getting started with open source projects.
To access a PDF of Open Source: Open for Business, visit http://www.csc.com/features/2004/48.shtml.
Founded in 1959, Computer Sciences Corporation is a leading global IT services company. CSC’s mission is to provide customers in industry and government with solutions crafted to meet their specific challenges and enable them to profit from the advanced use of technology.
With approximately 90,000 employees, CSC provides innovative solutions for customers around the world by applying leading technologies and CSC’s own advanced capabilities. These include systems design and integration; IT and business process outsourcing; applications software development; Web and application hosting; and management consulting. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., CSC reported revenue of $14.9 billion for the 12 months ended July 2, 2004. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at www.csc.com.