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Many federal agencies are hesitant to adopt open source software due to unfounded security, coding, and user interface concerns. We set you straight about the myths—and examine why open source is such a critical element to a successful digital transformation.
Free, open source software offers a wealth of opportunity for government organizations—from substantially lower costs to freedom from vendor lock-in. Yet many organizations are reluctant to adopt open source software because they’re worried it’s not secure, innovative, or user friendly.
However, based on our extensive work moving federal agencies to open source software, we’ve seen that much of the conventional wisdom is wrong. Here are 5 key myths about open source software—and the reality.
Myth No. 1: You don’t know how the software was put together—and can’t see what it’s doing. That puts your organization at risk for backdoor and other kinds of security vulnerabilities.
The Reality: With open source, you can look at the code and see exactly what it’s doing. The same can’t be said when you buy a software package from a private vendor. You can’t see the code and can only hope it’s secure.
Myth No. 2: Security flaws are pervasive and persistent throughout open source software, making it inherently less safe than vendor software. Furthermore, open source isn’t as high quality or reliable—it simply doesn’t work as well as vendor software.
The Reality: A large community of software experts—hundreds and even thousands of people—are actively policing and improving the open source code, finding ways to make it better and more secure. They want it to work well, and they make it happen.
“Far from being a questionable alternative to commercial, open source is actually a key component of a successful digital transformation.”
Myth No. 3: Improvements in open source software come too slowly to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing technologies and user needs. You’re not going to get new features and capabilities, or regular updates and patches, as fast as you want.
The Reality: The open source community is generally more responsive to change than private vendors. The latter are often tied to the timetables of their top-tier customers. The open source community, free from those constraints, constantly keeps software up to date.
Myth No. 4: You won’t get support if something goes wrong or needs changes. And if you don’t have the in-house talent to provide that support, this puts you in a bind.
The Reality: Several companies offer various levels of support for open source software, as a service. Examples include Cloudera, Hortonworks, and Red Hat. The open source community also provides a wide range of free support.
Myth No. 5: Open source software makes your system less user friendly, because it usually doesn’t have high-end user interfaces.
The Reality: Open source software doesn’t need complex user interfaces—it is typically combined with other technologies as part of an overall solution. That solution can include a user interface tailored to the needs of your organization.
The reality is, government agencies need what open source has to offer—the cost savings, the security, the innovation, and the flexibility. Based on our experience with client after client, we’ve seen that open source software—far from being a questionable alternative to commercial—is actually a critical component of a successful digital transformation. The best systems include both commercial and open source software, working seamlessly together to meet the organization’s unique mission and business needs.