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Ditch the nerd knobs: Converting data into dollars with open source

31 Oct 2019
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Article by Rubrik A/NZ country manager Luke McGoldrick  

No longer confined to dusty server rooms, technical leaders and CIOs alike now wear various hats to successfully deliver a quality user experience with their data and related services.

But trying to wrangle a spectrum of use cases ranging from older, legacy technology stacks to containers, public cloud, serverless, and continuous integration requires a fair degree of skill and experience.

These challenges have only been compounded by current buzz around data.

Data is now commonly referenced as the most valuable resource, eclipsing the value of oil.

Recent research found that data adds AU$2.5 trillion to the world’s seven richest economies, and naturally, everyone is scrambling for a piece of it.

That has created a new wave of pressure, forcing tech heads to implement strategies well beyond the scope of their traditional job description.

To this end, one of the best ways to adapt to the evolving IT landscape is to engage with a community that is focused on solving a shared pain point and driving towards business-relevant resolutions.

The global economy has allowed distributed tech professionals to collaborate on projects that were previously limited to physical grounds, and one of the most valuable advents in enabling this is the world of open source.

An outlier gone mainstream

Open source is arguably old hat in 2019.

However, while once an outlier used only by the cost-conscious, we have seen its prominence expand on the back of significant improvements in quality of software.

Organisations are recognising the value it creates; it provides a way for individuals to carve out their own ideas while collaborating with other skilled professionals.

What does this mean for CIOs and technology leaders?

It enables a community in which different business processes, design principles, toolsets, programming languages and workflows can be evaluated to encourage new ideas.

These can then be consumed by anyone who is affected by the pain points addressed by the project.

This will only be amplified as more “smart” and Internet of Things (IoT) projects are delivered, and the APIs behind those innovations enter the community.

Open source also empowers customers to join the development game by stripping away the ‘nerd knobs’ of coding, instead, providing APIs which can easily be tailored to very particular operational requirements.

One example of this shift from an exclusively vendor-driven concept to a ‘community’ is highlighted in Microsoft’s decision to make its PowerShell framework open source for millions of global users.

Meanwhile, a Fortune Global 500 consulting firm leaned on open source to improve operational efficiency and increase employee productivity to the tune of AU$165,000.

Speed is also a consequence of the expanding open source community, and therefore a critical driver for adopting new technologies.

This takes two forms: the speed to determine the fit for a project in your environment, and also to formulate and explore current and desired use cases.

Should a project fail to meet an organisation’s needs, open source provides avenues to fast-track those issues (i.e. such as an enhancement request or suggesting feature improvements) to the project managers.

In more advanced cases, those organisations can themselves submit code to improve upon a project to benefit the entire community.

The ‘too hard, too expensive’ myth

Open source also provides an on-ramp for all levels of technical professionals to engage in the development of new ideas.

Individuals can learn more about RESTful APIs, creating Software Development Kits (SDKs), writing well-rounded documentation, and integrating with unique services and platforms.

Although it’s a well-established approach to software, open source is still frequently victim to misconceptions; many in the industry still believe that open source projects are too difficult or expensive, having only witnessed the end result of the big wins which hit the headlines, not the process it took to get there.

When we meet with enterprises to map their business objectives, the most common starting point is documentation.

Often communication of an idea becomes a critical gap that most projects neglect, largely due to lack of time or the “curse of knowledge” in which only the project’s author knows how the code works.

However, documentation is often the most important piece of a project because it provides insights as to the functional design, features, and use cases that are applicable to the community.

Today, it’s quite easy to find open source communities where contributors can create new applications, automation tooling and integrations, or improve existing projects that simplify monitoring, testing, development, and automated workflows.

These communities are built with customers in mind, focused on providing education and tooling to enable tech professionals to deliver projects with measurable outcomes.

We have already seen many examples of organisations around the world – such as Sanitarium, Sphero and Driscolls – leveraging APIs to solve complexity created from managing myriad software applications both on-premises and the public cloud.

Because there is no barrier to entry, these organisations are able to leverage open source to overcome the complexities that tech advancement continues to introduce.