The tech industry serves as the perfect embodiment of the phrase ‘nothing lasts forever’ as can be seen from the many twists and turns that occurred within the last 40 years. Through the decades, technological advancements have seen many legacy businesses lose their dominance or get relegated to the background. In the 80s and early 90s, IBM was king. Its technologies dominated every aspect of business, which led to the famous phrase ‘Nobody gets fired for buying IBM’. Its success was due to building reliable solutions for diverse tasks. Choosing technology solutions built by IBM was the fad.
With the open-source revolution firmly on the way, everything was about to change for the tech giant. The open-source revolution created an avenue for everyone to contribute and ensure iterative upgrades came faster. By the late 90s the changes were so rapid and affordable that comparative proprietary solutions from IBM were left behind. This also left believers in the ‘Nobody gets fired for buying IBM’ mantra in the lurch. Ironically, users of IBM legacy proprietary solutions either lost jobs or closed departments to remain functional. This is why there is more to choosing technology solutions than following what seems popular in today’s market.
This article will discuss:
- How to choose technological solutions for long-term use.
- An analysis of the benefits of open-source software applications.
- How small and big businesses can make open-source solutions their own.
Open-Source vs. Proprietary Software
Understanding the differences between open-source and proprietary software is the place to start when choosing technology solutions. Open-source software refers to applications that have their source codes – the medium programmers use in developing or modifying applications – freely available to everyone. On the other hand, proprietary software refers to applications with source codes fully controlled and owned by the developer or programmer.
Another important difference between software options is how they are licensed. For open-source software, copyrights belong to the original author, but these rights do not stop others from modifying or giving the software out. Proprietary software integrates the use of copyright laws and licensing agreement that determines how they can be used. The end-user of proprietary software must stay within the confines of the licensing agreement or will end up using it illegally. The early IBM software solutions were proprietary while the Linux operating system is an example of open-source software.
The regimented use of proprietary software comes with certain drawbacks that must be considered when choosing technology solutions. These challenges include:
- Limited customization options which affect adaptation to specific environments.
- Software is generally developed for single purposes and the user depends on the author for updates, support, and security.
- Acquiring licenses can be expensive and future updates or maintenance is dependent on continuously renewing the license agreement.
These are important challenges, native to proprietary software, that the open-source initiative currently solves. The ability to make modifications to meet specific needs and the relative affordability of open-source software are a few of the major reasons end-users switch from proprietary software. An example of this ongoing switch is currently occurring in the tech industry. In 1993, Red Hat Inc. – a Linux-based open-source software developer – was founded with the sole aim of developing open-source enterprise solutions. This it successfully did for a couple of years while capturing the public’s attention. By 2019, the startup’s exponential growth was impossible to ignore and it was purchased by IBM to kick-start its drive into the open-source software market.
Choosing Technology in Warehouses and the Manufacturing Industry
Red Hat’s success was due to the adoption of its innovative operating systems and apps in diverse industries including manufacturing. The increased focus on the smart factory, and integrating Industry 4.0 business models to optimize production, also played a part in Red Hat’s successful outing. According to Gartner, the lights out factory will rely not only on automation but also on choosing the right technology solutions to manage business operations.
Choosing technology solutions was highlighted because it determines how data is collected, analyzed, and used in optimizing shop floors. Thus, when choosing industrial software and cloud solutions here are the important things to consider:
- Is the software safe and reliable enough to avoid downtimes?
- Do I have access to source code which guarantees some control?
- Can it leverage or harness IoT technologies?
- Is it likely to become obsolete within a short period?
- Is it affordable and guaranteed to optimize manufacturing processes?
The answers to these five questions should play an important role in determining the technology you intend to choose. In terms of safety, open-source software is more reliable because it has been peer-reviewed by professional developers and end-users determined to get the best out of it. The access to source codes and the ability to constantly update them at will means that open-source software programs have longer life-spans. Unlike proprietary software that becomes obsolete in a couple of years, developers continuously work on improving and optimizing open-source solutions to meet future challenges.
An example of these future challenges is the ability to harness IoT technologies. Here again, open-source software excels. Open-source software will assist factory owners with leveraging the potential of IoT by enhancing connectivity and optimizing data analytics.
The Benefit of Choosing Open-Source Technology
Open-source software applications are here to stay. This is due to the benefits they confer on the user. According to PCWorld, the benefits revolve around affordability, multiple support options, flexibility and customizability. While all these benefits are great, most manufacturers and developers tend to ignore an obvious advantage open-source offers and that is the fact that you can actually make open-source software your own. This option means businesses do not have to be bound to a single vendor. Adopting open-source technology means you have the right to choose different vendors, and mix and match technology solutions to get the best out of multiple options.
The future of manufacturing relies heavily on automation and adopting Industry 4.0 business models. Open-source technology will serve as the pathway to bridging any future gaps between automating shop floors and implementing Industry 4.0. This is because it can be updated to accommodate new IoT devices, electronic hardware, and evolving IT infrastructure. This ensures your chosen tech solutions do not become obsolete and a hindrance to growth.