FUTURERebooting Enterprise with Open Source
Anything you do with a computer relies in part on open source software. For decades, the world’s developers have architected, developed and maintained software that is free to use. Many of the most important advances of the last 40 years have come from open source collaboration. The trend has always been towards openness, but there is now a pronounced move away from proprietary, which is impacting e-commerce software decisions.
What is Enterprise Open Source?
One reason for this trend is the emergence of a new option, enterprise open source — companies offering open source as the core product plus a cloud option delivering enterprise-grade maintainability, security and performance. Enterprise open source is not community open source and brands should take time to understand the difference. Beyond the feel good effect, why is investment in enterprise open source surging?
In a 2020 survey of 950 Global IT leaders, 77% said they expected to increase their use of enterprise open source software, which is up from 59% in 2019.
Brands want faster innovation cycles, but not at the expense of security, maintainability or performance. Community open source projects do sometimes fall short of enterprise expectations. Bug fixes and feature requests can pile up more quickly than a part-time corps of developers can clear them. Enterprise open source companies fix this problem by staffing full-time, core teams. Interestingly, this often amplifies community impact — in pushing bug fixes and standard features, the core team frees the community to pursue breakthroughs. Hundreds or thousands of developers helping a dedicated core team innovate faster is simply a better model for advancing technology than a proprietary silo.
Rapid Innovation Cycles
Choosing enterprise open source over proprietary can also accelerate internal innovation. With proprietary systems, a lack of access to core code makes experimentation difficult. Things are simpler with enterprise open source. Core code access enables POCs to be built soon after an idea is conceived.
Once built, POCs give brands clarity on what to request in a core feature. If the core team does not accept the feature and it is mission-critical, the brand always has the option to fork the project, extreme extensibility that proprietary cannot match.
The brand always has the option to fork the project, extreme extensibility that proprietary cannot match.
But ideally, a feature would be accepted and maintained by the core team, else a brand may eventually struggle to maintain what it has built. It is here that enterprise open source really shines. A company culture built around a strong bond with the community of users will expect the next great idea to come from the community, whereas proprietary cultures often bet on innovation from within. Receptive and open beats insular and closed every time.
Is it Maintainable, Secure and Performant?
If enterprise open source software companies can innovate more quickly, what about security, maintainability and performance? The same IT leaders survey found that the top three reasons cited for choosing enterprise open source were (1) higher quality software, (2) access to the latest innovations, and (3) better security.
of IT leaders see enterprise open source as “more secure” or “as secure” as proprietary software.
If the community gives enterprise open source an unfair innovation advantage, maintainability and security stem primarily from the core team’s motivation to build a successful business. But here too, the community plays an important role. Users of the free, self-hosted editions act as a legion of testers, working more quickly and thoroughly than most proprietary QA teams could to flag bugs and vulnerabilities. At first, transparency here seems risky. What if the bad guys are paying attention too? But on reflection, radical transparency guarantees that brands have immediate clarity on issues and that the core team will swiftly step up with a patch, else lose its business opportunity. It turns out that working in the open can offer more maintainability and security, not less.
A Shift from Proprietary
In addition to pursuing rapid innovation, better security and maintainability, the industry is increasingly avoiding sales-driven, proprietary software and vendor lock-in.
Technical leaders realize they must move fast and that in the modern, best-of-breed era of e-commerce, being held captive to a proprietary roadmap for 5 or 10 years is risky.
To the end-user, the front-end is the only end and front-end technology advances quickly. The downsides of proprietary software — long-term contracts, specialized developers, captivity to a proprietary vision — are being more carefully considered. If the old adage “Nobody got fired for choosing IBM,” ever held at fast-growing brands, it definitely does not today.
Future-proofing — a software’s likelihood of remaining open and extensible — is a better gauge than a client roster in 2021. The shift away from proprietary is visible in the survey: IT leaders expect a decrease in the proportion of commercial software used within their firms from 42% in 2020 to 32% by 2022. Over the same period, they expect open source to increase from 36% to 44%.
Enterprise Open Source and Digital Ethics
What about the feel-good effect — does good karma come as a result of enterprise open source? Yes, indirectly. Good karma is a function of recruiting and retaining tech talent. With 59% of developers contributing to open source projects, company leadership should care about open source because its developers do. Open source communities are often a developer’s surest path to recognition as an expert in a chosen speciality. Through open source, a developer is able to showcase code quality, work ethic and even leadership skills for all the world to see rather than seeing those placed under an employer’s lock-and-key. Brands should take note of the resume-building aspects of open source and do all they can to amplify their team members’ open source efforts. Enterprise open source also benefits broader digital ethics strategies, which is exemplified by Lush:
What happens in the digital world impacts our planet and its inhabitants. But that impact can be positive, if only technology can give more back to society and the environment than it takes away. Let’s champion ethical hardware, ethical data, and open source technologies, whilst supporting and elevating global communities who feel the same.
In championing open source technologies, brands join their development teams’ call for a stop to closed and proprietary as the way enterprise software is done. Enterprise open source means brands get the best of both worlds — the reliability of cloud and the openness of open source. And resume-building is not just for the individual developer. With enterprise open source, brands too may choose to open source portions of their work — a strong indicator to the engineering community of a great place to work. In this way, “community” is not some lonely collection of solo developers, but an efficient way for thousands of developers at hundreds of brands like Lush to build an innovation flywheel proprietary software can’t match. That does feel good.
Enterprise open source offers brands the best of open source and enterprise: Rapid innovation, maintainable, secure and performant code plus backing by a single company for quality cloud offerings and white-glove support. Global IT leaders at large companies are increasingly relying on this new option. Rapidly changing business and technical landscapes mean mid-and-smaller brands will soon follow.
We selected Saleor, as our global eCommerce platform of choice. Saleor fits with our ethical approach to open source software, and our move away from large scale enterprise solutions. We’re enjoying the modularity, flexibility we can harness from Saleor to deliver on our promise of the best, freshest, handmade cosmetics.
Adam Goswell, Tech R&D
Saleor is bringing enterprise open source to e-commerce. Relying on the strength of our core team and community, we deliver e-commerce software that is more extensible, maintainable, secure and performant than the proprietary incumbents. As a company, we work to promote enterprise open source as we believe a healthy business helps sustain open source development. Saleor is API-first, GraphQL-only, Python/Django core and open source with optional cloud.
Enterprise Open Source Software
Proprietary Enterprise Software
Limited extensibility (no option of "taking it home" in case your requirements cannot be met anymore)
Open standards and community know-how
Proprietary knowledge and know-how
Quality code built and maintained in the open
Non-transparent code created behind the closed doors
Building with cutting edge technologies
Drowning in technical debt