Open source systems,¬†developed co-operatively under non-proprietary licensing terms, are championed by many computer programming professionals and industry executives who oppose proprietary control over software code, not to mention the licensing fees for proprietary programs.
Amadeus IT Group¬†has been one the world’s major transaction processors that have been transitioning to open source software (OSS).
To draw attention to its adoption of open source, Amadeus hired Jim Norton,¬†an academic and IT industry advocate, to write¬†a report¬†on how open source software often delivers an advantageous alternative to proprietary systems for large transaction processors.
Norton is a visiting professor of electronic engineering at University of Sheffield and a former president of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, which offers training and advocacy for IT professionals in the UK.
The 22-page report, “Open for business,” cheers on the adoption of open source systems for enterprise usage.
It also gives advice for companies considering shifting more in that direction.
The report dispenses advice for companies interested in replacing legacy systems with OSS ones.
A key lesson is to have a unified development team.
It’s a common mistake, says the report, for companies to have one team for legacy systems and another for replacement systems, a division that can sow dissent, increase the chance of implementation defects, and risk the loss of “institution memory.”
The other major mistake is to ignore that OSS usually changes a company’s business model to some extent. A switchover is rarely a mere technical project.
Some other key highlights:
- The cost of running enterprise systems on OSS can be 20% less than using proprietary systems.
- That estimate of a¬†20% cost savings doesn’t count the bill for making a transition.
- The switch to open source may change the business model, given that some products that might have been sold before may now instead be given away.
- Corporate incentive structures may have to change to properly attract talent to manage the transition and to subsequently run OSS. That may be an additional, surprise, cost.
- Small- and medium-size enterprises may have the most to gain from switching to OSS.
At a press briefing, Herve Couturier, executive vice-president, development, for Amadeus IT Group, said that the two most fundamental reasons why his organization has embraced OSS are to escape being handcuffed by licensing fees and to attract the latest programming talent (which tends to favor OSS).
Couturier spoke with passion about an incident in August, when Microsoft had insisted its clients accept a software patch — despite the danger that corporations like Amadeus wouldn’t have their systems ready to accept it in time, jeopardizing operations. He said:
“I was about to call Steve Ballmer and tell him that he needed to make this patch voluntary.”
Microsoft eventually did make the patch voluntary. But its power to dictate terms to its customers had the potential to offend many in the IT community, says¬†Couturier, who points out that many other customers were similarly affected by Microsoft’s decisions.
Amadeus uses OSS in several ways, including:
- The Madrid-based GDS¬†recently¬†opened up code¬†to third parties for travel app development.
- The GDS’s Altea customer management system for airlines is being transitioned to Linux. It may be another eight months before the seven-year project is completed.
- Mobile solutions are being developed for Android’s open source platform.
- Amadeus has contributed to standard definitions used by the open source community.
Unlike the typical corporate whitepaper, Amadeus’s report was written by an academic, and has plenty of footnotes for supporting documentations for any interested readers.
In summary, the report has a simple message:
Open source advocates may look at proprietary software and say, “Just because you pay for it doesn’t make it better.”
But any company looking to jump on the OSS bandwagon had best do so circumspectly.
NB: Image of code courtesy of Shutterstock.