CIOs: Deploy Open Source First, Cloud Second

CIOs looking to replace legacy systems should consider open source options over proprietary software or public cloud services, according to a study by a British IT Professor Jim Norton.

The intention of the study is to assess the role of open source software in critical transaction systems. The study may be used to the benefit of CIOs in their consideration and examination of replacing legacy and proprietary systems with new large scale transaction oriented systems using open source and cloud based services.

When considering a significant change in data processing models within an organization, CIOs will need to choose between systems upgrades, outsourcing, or the adoption of cloud services. In most cases, Norton argues that re-engineering internal IT using open source software is the more sensible outcome.

Why is Open Source Cheaper?

According to Norton and IT News, open source software provides enterprise IT with easier access to innovation via a “great global self-re-enforcing community of shared resources, ideas and development".

That same community provides a faster response to changes in customer preferences communicated on social networks or via business analytics, and faster resolution of common system problems.

IT Workers Demand Latest Tools

Open source is also preferred by the next generation of tech talent, he argues.

“The skilled, motivated staff that grew up with the internet don’t want to work with closed, old fashioned systems,” he said. "If you don't provide them with tools for Drupal, for Hadoop, for jQuery, they aren’t happy bunnies."

Norton cited studies from the London School of Economics which found that investments to deploy open source in-house drives longer-term savings of 20 percent over the alternatives.

However, Norton warned those savings would only come after a slightly more expensive transition period and that such cost savings “don’t apply to everyone".

“What I’ve tried to do with this study is look at lessons learned,” he said. “Replacing proprietary systems with open source isn’t straightforward and isn’t easy.”

The study includes a checklist for customers making the transition. It advises CIOs, for example, not to separate current support teams from new development teams, “or you’ll be consigning your business as usual team to the scrap heap," Norton said.


CIOs: Deploy Open Source First, not Cloud First

Professor Norton said that while public cloud computing services have come a long way, business processes to support a shift to these services have not. Interoperability barely exists, nor does the ability to audit the security of hosted services.

“Therein lies the danger if as a CIO you’re pushed too quickly in the cloud direction,” he said. “In many respects, the public cloud is an immature business. Business processes will eventually catch up with the technology, but they are not there yet. “I would expect you would make greater cost savings by using open source internally without using a cloud-based solution.”



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