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Adoption of Open Source


In India, open source code software will have to come and stay in a big
way for the benefit of our billion people---- former President A.P.J. Abdul

Many software companies are hesitant to adopt the open source software
fearing the idea of letting go of their most highly guarded treasure Source

However, Dr.Kalam identified that for India to march forward in the

growth path of becoming a competitive nation it requires affordable
software which can be customized locally and implemented in the areas of
health, education and governance.
Open source has given hope for many under privileged towns and villages
to have access to computer today, which would not have been possible
with proprietary software. India is multilingualism country. Many state
government run schools teach in local language of that state. Open source
software can be modified to support these languages.

Earlier we have seen three revolutions which changed the face of India.

The first revolution was called the Green Revolution, which started in the 1970s
and took India from being a grain deficit to a grain surplus country.

The second revolution, in the 1980s, was the White Revolution (Operation
Flood) aimed to create nationwide milk grid. This operation helped in increase in
milk production which in turn helped rural development. Also, India became an
exporter of dairy products.

The third revolution, in the 1990s, was the Gray Revolution, which used India's
plethora of English-speaking engineers and scientists to capture a significant
share of the world's outsourcing business in software and pharmaceuticals. India
has done it before and it can do it again with Open source probably called as
open source revolution.

The Indian Department of Information Technology is committed to

developing, supporting and promoting Open Source to create an ecosystem for an all-round promotion of Free/ Open Source Software in India.

The notable initiatives toward offering a low cost computing, flexibility

and choice to the end users include BOSS(Bharat Operating System
Solutions) desktop and server versions and EduBOSS for schools.

BOSS is a GNU/Linux based localized Operating System distribution that

supports 18 Indian languages - Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi,
Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi,
Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu. BOSS is numero uno
choice for supporting Government and educational domains with NIC and
Indian Navy among its notable users. BOSS has been certified by Linux

Currently BOSS is being used for e-governance applications in

Chattisgarh and Kerala.

Adoption is the way to experience freedom.

Different entities have different motivation to adopt open source.

Drivers for Open Source

Some of the prominent drivers that enable the wide spread adoption of open source
in the world today is as below:


Lower Cost of Ownership

Innovation reuse
Technical assets

Lower Cost of Ownership

The IT department of governments and organizations started analyzing the financial

spend to cut costs and found that most of the money was spent for paying off the huge
licensing fees to the proprietary software vendors.
As the licenses were based on the number of users, the IT department had to pay extra
money for additional user license. Therefore, they did not approve additional user
requests to use the proprietary software. They did not have sufficient funds to either
sponsor new projects or expand the existing infrastructure. All that mattered was to
keep the lights on for the existing infrastructure so that the business will not be
impacted. Buying new hardware was a far cry and newer hardware did not support
older proprietary software. Many organizations refrain from renewing the license
instead they used open source alternatives which can be installed in older hardware.

Open source provided lower cost of ownership to

the governments and organizations because:

it was available freely

free to customize based on the requirements of firms
No charge incurred for additional users.
The small start-up companies who cannot afford the
high maintenance costs of having proprietary
software almost always chose the Open source path.


Based on the recent survey conducted by Accenture, it has been found

that quality of the open source software overtakes costs and is a primary
driver for organizations adopting open source.

The source code developed by the open source community undergoes

peer review which is critical in identifying development defects.

Any enhancements to the open source projects have to pass the regression
test cases before being added to the open source project.

As multiple developers are involved in the

development of open source projects, defects
are fixed at a faster rate.
The open source software such as Linux,
Apache and MySQL have proved to be reliable
and on par with the commercial software.

Innovation reuse

In the traditional proprietary environment, innovation or ideas is limited

within the boundaries of the research department of the organization
whereas in the open environment, the firm benefits not only from the
innovation within the organization but also from other organizations and

The organization does not have to waste time reinventing the wheel but
instead the innovation can be used directly into its own products or can be
used to improvise the existing products or improvise the existing

Technical Competence

The technical competence of the open source vendor is a major driver

for adopters.

Firms having less technical competence encounter multiple

challenges during the deployment of the open source software. But,
firms having strong technical skills enable the easier implementation
of the open source solution reaping the benefits of open source.

2. Open Source software Assessment

Open source software is mature enough to be considered in production

environment of the Enterprise.

As said my Raymond, Open source is a market. When anyone enters a

market and strolls around the vicinity looks for many things which he wants
to buy.

But the question is, do you need it? Is it of good quality? Is it reliable?
There are many questions one should answer to wisely chose a product to
meet the requirement.

Attributes that should be considered for assessment

1) Business Requirement
2) Functionality
3) Cost
4) Support
5) Software Development
6) Reliability
7) Performance
8) Scalability
9) Security:
12)IT integrator

Business Requirement: Assessment should first start with understanding

the business requirement. Assessment should consider budget allocation
for procuring hardware and software, is the application business critical,
number of users year on year and acceptable procurement duration are few
of the points to note during business requirement gathering. A well
understood business requirement will help in choosing the right product.

Functionality: List down all the application functionality needed. It is

often useful to segregate functionality based on absolutely required and
optional. Sometimes we might have to forego few functionality due to
various reasons, for example support might be good. To fill in the missing
functionality we may have to look for alternate program or use your
developer to write a code. Also, consider how well it integrates and is
compatible with the existing components you already have.

Cost: Lesser cost is one of the primary drivers for adopting open
source. Open source software per se many not cost much to get the
software but there will be other cost like support, deployment,
staffing, indirect costs (such as downtime and training), and transition
costs (such as data transition). All this should be included in total cost
of ownership (TOC) and return of investment (ROI) calculation.
Support: Support is paramount for good sustenance. Look for
different levels of support. Many divide support into Silver, Gold and
Platinum support levels. Look at time taken to resolve issues raised
under different levels. Apart from vendor support also evaluate how
active and responsive the communities and support groups are

Software Development: Open source software development methodology

is different from proprietary software development. Open source needs a
very well collaborated effort to develop a product. Software development
should be well managed and governed, defects should be available for
anyone to view and version changes should be properly tracked.

Reliability: Generally, developer and user communities are involved in

fixing defects. Developers really care about reliability, when the product is
more reliable their meritocracy soars.

Performance: Open source project websites generally contains

performance data. Look for the parameter used for the
performance benchmark. Some tweak the parameters to show
good performance. Visit their forum and read through discussions
to get a realistic performance data put my users.
Scalability: This is usually measured by the following parameters
maximum data size supported number of users, number of
nodes (servers), memory and CPU. Compare this with business
requirement year on year. Do not rely on theoretical limit instead
look for benchmark data to get much pragmatic numbers.

Security: Check for the penetration testing results. Have the

developers identify any vulnerability and are the fixed. Also, check
against your own security requirement.
Interoperability: Open source gives freedom to build your own
solution. Therefore, we have the option of using different products to
build a suitable solution. But check if the product works well with
other products used in the solution.
Proven: Is the product widely used? How many years the product is
being used and is it popular within the same domain of your

IT integrator: If there are no skilled in-house resources you might

have to rely on IT integrators. Therefore, check how many
integrators can implement the product. You can also negotiate
better if there are many integrators.
License: Read the fine print of the license document. Are they any
caveats for number of copies, or users? Look under which licensing
scheme they fall under GPL, BSD..etc. As mentioned in the earlier
chapter, the GPL license prohibits the use of open source with the
closed source code to be sold as proprietary software. However, the
open source with commercial license can be used with the closed
source code and sold as proprietary software.

Examples of Open Source Adoption in the world

Open source software adoption saw a surge during deep recession in 2009. During
these tough times many organizations were looking for ways to cut cost with better
productivity and efficiency without compromising on quality and security.

Many organizations unilaterally chose The Open Source Way.

In fact the organizations choosing this path drew innovation to a newer level.

Many fortune 500 companies chose open source path for an instant financial benefit.

No doubt that cost saving is one the major drivers to adopt open source, but there are
more to it than cost saving. Better system stability, better malware protection,
simplified updates for all installed software, free software licensing, availability of
application repositories and access to the source code.

The biggest benefits came down to innovation and flexibility.

Many new popular concepts like social networking, blogging, video
sharing...etc. are mainly using open source. YouTube was founded in February
2005 by former paypal employees.

It is completely built on open source like Linux, MySQL, Apache, and Python.

Twitter is built on open source software, from backend-to-frontend.

Their engineers contribute to and release a lot of open source products. These
gestures only indicate that open source is here to stay and grow.

3.1 Strings without Proprietary Strings

Ernie Ball saved $80,000, ask me how?

Ernie Ball is one of the world's leading manufacturers of electric guitar strings and
accessories. They used to run their business with predominately proprietary
software. They hit the headlines in the music industries more often for their
amazing guitar products. Due to their daring move from proprietary software to
open source, they also hit the IT headlines.

Ernie Ball is a privately owned company, a family business that's been around for
30 years. For Ernie Ball being sued was as strange as guitar without stings. One
fine day, Sterling Ball, CEO, got a call informing him that Erine Ball may not be
software license compliant. He thought they were okay because they buy
computers with licensed software. After an IT audit they realized that they were
out of compliance by about 8% (out of 72 desktops). This happened when their old
desktops were moved to clerical department. People in this department used the
old desktops without wiping out the data and software which were not required.
Many proprietary software licenses are considered used when it is installed. It
does not matter whether the software is actually being used by a user or not.

Ball ended up paying thousands of dollars as penalty and legal fees. With this
humiliating experience, Ball decided to take the path where only the brave
dare to tread, Open Source. Ball told his IT department to move away from
proprietary software within 6 months.
Balls IT department looked every possible way to replace most of the
proprietary software with open source, Red Hat's version of Linux, the
OpenOffice office suite, Mozilla's Web browser. But few proprietary
applications that couldn't be duplicated by open source remained.
With this exodus from proprietary to open source software Ernie Ball had
immediate gratification of $80,000. This does not stop there; they continued to
save every time when they added a new desktop to their IT inventory.

3.2 IT@School

IT@School project was initiated by Government of Kerala in 2001. During the initial
years teachers empowerment programmes consist of proprietary software for the
lessons. They also realized the importance of Information technology knowledge and
extend it to students. They made it a compulsory subject for higher classes. As they
gained more insight into the Information technology and also assessed the money
spent on their desktop computer and the proprietary applications they realized the
importance of open source software.

They have come a long way from then on; this open source journey has been more
rewarding to them financially. They have replaced more than 50,000 desktops from
proprietary operating system with open source operating system. They saved
approximately Rs.11 Crores each year.

Even their software used to conduct their exams are developed on open source
platform. The advantage of using open source is more of ideological and
philosophical like sharing of knowledge rather than mere cost reduction. This
project helped them to be more innovative. Their first open source initiative was
development of a platform independent Operating system called IT@School
GNU\Linux. Below are some of their other initiatives:

1.Application software like Open office, GIMP, Dr. Geo, Rasmol, KEduca, Klab
2.Examination software to conduct IT practical examination to more than16
lakh students
3.Handbook for GNU\Linux prepared as a user manual for working in

4.Training modules in GNU\Linux to train teachers in open source

5.Textbook for standard 8th 9th and 10th Prepared in association with
6.ANTS(Animation training for students) This is designed to provide
animation training entirely based Open Source Software such as
KToon,Gimp,OpenShot Video Editor and Audacity.
They also create multimedia educational content on open source platform
which helps them to save Rs.1 crore. Additional they saved approx. Rs.25
lakhs on software to conduct their exams using open source
Any exodus of this scale is never without challenges. Due to the virtue of
openness of Linux operating system there was never dearth of distributions.
They had challenges in creating a single curriculum. Teaching the sheer
quantum of students was a colossal task. There were 14 lakhs students across
different locations. Finding enough trainers for this size was one of the biggest
challenges they faced.

These, plus many other challenges were encountered during the

implementation. Their planned approach helped them to implement the open
source across 8000 schools. From training the teachers to application
customization was done in phases. They have approximately 50 lakhs
students and 2 lakhs teachers part of this project now.

This project is considered to be the single largest simultaneous deployment

of open source based Information Communication Technology education in
the world.

3.3 Life Insurance through open source

Most of us have at least one of it, we rely on it and it insures our life thats Life
Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).

LIC is one among the largest insurance company in India. It has been considered as the
Holy Grail for all the insurers in India. LIC was founded in 1956 with the merging of
multiple small insurance companies.

LIC has 8 zonal Offices and 113 divisional offices 3500 servicing offices including 2048
branches, 54 Customer Zones, 25 Metro Area Service Hubs and a number of Satellite
Offices located in different cities and towns of India. LIC had 13,37,064 individual
agents, 242 Corporate Agents, 79 Referral Agents, 98 Brokers and 42 Banks.

Earlier LIC maintained all the insurance records in papers and folders.

During those days they still had lot of customers.

Customer service was a daunting task as everything had to be done manually,

be it address change on the insurance policy or buying a new policy.

LIC learnt that IT could help them enhance their service. During mid-90s
they started computerization of their process and services. This helped for a
better customer experience.

Every division, every office within LIC were now connected

electronically. This means, any insurance data is now clicks away.

Each branch office, divisional and zonal office had desktops for POS (point of
service) and servers hosting insurance applications.

With this scale of computerization it was a sight for sore eyes for all the
proprietary companies. But, with monumental financial saving open source
can provide, it was too good to ignore.

LIC has migrated all its servers to Linux, and uses Linux on close to 60
per cent of its desktop base of over 30,000. Total saving is approximately
USD 8.75 Million.

4. Open Source Challenges

Just because open source is free, it does not mean it is free of challenges. In fact
challenges drive innovation.

Most of the challenges are due to lack proper pre-assessment and understanding of
business requirement.

Few of the common challenges in open source projects.

1) Penny wise pound foolish: Software is typically less than 5% of the total cost of
ownership. The other costs are quite substantial like training, service and support.
Without prudent assessment these cost can be more than the proprietary software.
2) Forking: Source code availability is a key factor in establishing trust in the open
source community. But sometimes this trust can be overstated. Group of developers
contribute to a central source code. Some developers can use this central source code and
add their own and release a parallel version to the original source code. Most forking
happens due to personality clashes or conflict of developer goals.

3) 11th hour choice: A proper assessment is a must without which we

might end up adopting open source software which cost more than
proprietary software. More time should be spent in reading forums and
communities to choose the right open source software. Install and configure
the product in proof of concept setup for testing. A proper due-diligence
can save millions.
4) Documentation: Most of the open source projects have manual which
are random collection of developer definition of modules of the project and
it may not reflect all the changes done in the code. Documentation is time
consuming and not very rewarding for developers. It is difficult to get
people who are inclined towards writing documentation and there are just
too few of those special people. Better documentation improves adoption

5) Support: Open source support is not a new issue. This has been lingering for quite a
while. Many organizations argue that even though open source applications are free, the
savings is consumed by creating their own support strategies for open source. When
organizations buy proprietary software they will have a single contact point to get support.
But most of the open source support is provided by communities (a.k.a forums and mailing
lists) and it works well. But when you have a critical problem when the production server
is down you need support instantaneously, it is very unlikely we will be able to
commission the developers to release an update immediately when we have an issue. As
the open source matures, there are various business models being adopted to address
support issues. Some companies support specific open source software stacks like
SourceLabs provides an open source Java middleware platform, called SASH. It includes
Spring, Axis, Struts, Hibernate and Tomcat, with accompanying support. This enables
them to focus on the intermingled reliance a few pieces of software. And some other
companies(eg., Credativ) have positioned as one-stop shop for open source support for
almost all significant open source applications and platforms, including the many flavors
of Linux distributions, databases.etc .

Adoption Methods and Process

When there is a need to set a standard in the market/industry sector, the National
Standards Body (NSB) of the respective country performs the feasibility check
on the existence of a national, or regional or international standard that meets the
market requirement. If yes, the NSB adopts the existing standard otherwise, a
new standard.
When a NSB decides to adopt a national standard from another NSB, an
agreement has to be reached prior to the adoption along with the financial
implications (payment of copyright fees etc,).
When a NSB decides to adopt an international standard, the standard can be
adopted As-Is or with modifications based upon the degrees of association.

Each of the international standard organizations has their
own set of guidelines defining the procedures for the
national adoption of an international standard. For
example, a guide for national adoption of ISO standards
for American National standard details out the procedure
for adoption of ISO standards. Similarly, a procedure exists
for the national adoption of IEEE standards. However, the
process of adoption can be broadly classified to constitute
four main stages namely:

Stage 1 - Identify:
Whenever a need to set a standard becomes evident in an industry due to
market conditions, the industry reaches out to the National Standards Body
(NSB). The NSB performs a standard search to identify the existence of an
equivalent national or international standard. Based upon the result of the
search, the NSB decides to either adopt the existing standard or consider
creating a new one.
Generally the NSB should actively participate while developing new
international standards that are of interests to their nation. Reason being, active
participation during the development can significantly influence the content of
the standard in the interest of the nation that the NSB

Stage 2 Review:
At this stage, the international or national standard identified in Identify stage is assessed and
validated against the business requirement. The following questions can be considered during the
Is the identified standard Open or Closed?
If the identified standard is closed, is it a de facto standard of the industry? If no, it not
recommended for adoption.
If the identified standard is open, is it effectively practiced in other countries? If no, perhaps
the standard is still in the development phase or the technology using the standard is
emerging. It is essential that standard that has been proven in the industry before use rather
than being an early adopter of the standard. We will see in the later sections of the chapter the
about the implications of being an early adopter.
Is the standard interoperable with other organization standard? Regardless of whether the
standard is open or closed, it is critical that the standard is interoperable with the standards
existing within the organization that is deciding to adopt the standard. Unless there is a
compelling business need, it is not advisable to adopt the standard that is not interoperable.
What are the potential risks and benefits with the adoption of the standards? The benefits and
risks have to weigh against each other. A plan to mitigate the identified risks has to be
created. When the benefits out weighs the risks, the standard is recommended for adoption.

Stage 3 Approve:
A review meeting is held to finally decide whether the identified standard
should be approved and adopted. The degrees of association of the national
standard in relation to the international standard are determined. If the
variation exists between the national and the international standard, the
deviations are clearly stated. The appropriate method of adoption is applied
as described in the previous section and the standard is published for
industry use.
Stage 4 Maintenance:
The amendments made to the international standard or the revision of the
international standard should be reflected in the national standard as early as
possible in order to maintain the equivalence of the technical content,
wording or structure of the standard. Similarly, the amendments to and
revision of the national standard should be made considering the impact on
the equivalence of the international standard.