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The Significance of Open Source

This week, I am continuing this series on important ideas that have helped to shape IT in the modern era. The evolving development and use of open-source software is one of those very powerful ideas. Let me explain.

Big Software 

I use the phrase “evolving development and use of open software,” but maybe it’s just me evolving and catching up with open-source ideas and implementations as they moved forward rapidly. Are you challenged to keep up? Many of us had our first exposure to open source through Linux. It was a big phenomenon that cast an immense shadow. At first, we noticed Linux running file servers and other utility functions. Before we knew it, Linux was running applications that ended up in production. It happened pretty fast.
It wasn’t just Linux the OS that made a big impact. As Linux went from basic utility platform to production server, a powerful set of supporting software was developed and deployed as open-source software running on Linux. Middleware examples include Apache HTTP Server, Samba and JBoss with available databases such as PostgreSQL and MySQL, as well as languages and utilities like PHP, Python, Concurrent Versions System, GNU Compiler Collection, and Perl. This was a big wave of software that encouraged developers to build applications on Linux.
IBM is a major contributor to open-source efforts. As part of the open-source community, IBM contributes to Apache projects like Apache Geronimo and offers WebSphere Application Server Community Edition as IBM’s supported distribution of Geronimo. The Community Edition is a lightweight Java EE 6 application server that provides a useful foundation for building Java applications that pre-integrates Apache Tomcat with other open-source components such as web services, security, authentication and messaging. Support options are also available on a yearly subscription basis through IBM Passport Advantage.
IBM also offers DB2 Express-C, which is a no-charge community edition of Db2 server with core features. DB2 Express-C has features like Time Travel Query, Data Studio, pureXML, Compression and mobile database sync and support. Support options are also available for DB2 Express-C that include 24-7 IBM client support, fix packs, upgrade protection and features including high availability, disaster recovery and enhanced security.
Of course, Linux runs on IBM Z, and to run it, you need to utilize Integrated Facilities for Linux (IFLs). The pricing of the IFLs make them attractive to use with Linux. You can run Linux natively in an IBM Z LPAR. However, it’s more common to run z/VM in a LPAR and use it to host hundreds to thousands of VMs running Linux.

Smaller Software (but Nevertheless Important)

Recently, I have started to pay attention to open-source packages that perform basic functions that are extremely useful. This IT plumbing is useful and inexpensive (you have to spend time to learn it) and gets you an up-and-running solution quickly. Take for example, deploying a microservices application infrastructure. If you want to stand up an environment quickly with high quality software, you will need software to perform functions like a gateway, a service discovery function, a configuration service, user authentication, and management support like monitoring, fault tolerance and log analysis. Gateway software like IBM API  Microgateway can get you off to a good start. Next, you need to stand up your service discovery function. Find an open-source discovery package. Netflix has Eureka, an open-source discovery service for AWS environments. You get the idea. Use open source instead of developing all this functionality in-house.
No matter, big or small open source, important transformations are happening. If you pick Linux, you are tapping into a fertile and growing development and deployment environment. If you build solutions integrating open-source components into packages supporting infrastructure or application development, you get off to a rapid start on your solution by using open source. You also tap into human resources who have learned that integrating and building upon open source is a very useful way to proceed.