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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Canonical Talks Benefits, Barriers and Evolution of Open Source

Interview Canonical 

The widespread use of open source software has made it practically a necessity for enterprises looking to innovate.  From Internet giants like Google and Microsoft to automotive and consumer brands like Toyota and Nike, the list of companies embracing open source to drive innovation is skyrocketing!

Open source software allows development teams to radically reduce the time it takes to deliver applications and potentially saves them hundreds of hours of labor by drastically decreasing the amount of code written from scratch.  And now, those newly-available resources are instead being dedicated to true innovation.

One company that's helped to pave the way for enterprises to embrace open source is Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.  So to find out more, I reached out to Mark Baker, Ubuntu server and cloud product manager at Canonical. 

VMblog:  How has open source software evolved to be used by enterprises?

Mark Baker:  Many Open Source software projects have evolved to be more consumable by traditional enterprises. This means that they are packaged by a vendor who takes responsibility for testing, validating integrating and supporting the software. The vendor is someone the enterprise can engage with commercially and procure from as many Enterprises struggle to just use free software - their processes can't accommodate it - it needs to be procured. As enterprises use the software they give feedback to the vendor about features or improvements they'd like to see and the vendor can help filter these and work with the relevant upstream community to implement them. Over time this makes the software more appropriate for an enterprise although care needs to be taken to ensure that the software does not lose much of its attraction and become bloated or slow moving under the weight of too many enterprise features.

VMblog:  Was there a ‘tipping point,' and, if so, what was it?

Baker:  There were a series of advances made that enabled Open Source to be considered ready for enterprises. The dot-com bust of 2000 forced many companies to look seriously at infrastructure choices. They knew they needed to manage scale as more users came online, yet also knew that the traditional way of providing infrastructure using expensive 'best of breed' technologies was no longer an option. This kick started a phase of Unix to Linux migration that saw organizations using Linux with Intel hardware in place of proprietary Unix hardware and operating systems. This snow balled as big enterprise vendors such as IBM, Intel, EMC and Oracle started to make their technologies work with Linux and Linux really took off in the Enterprise. As Linux become more accepted, so did technologies like MySQL, Tomcat and PHP.

VMblog:  What are the benefits for enterprises embracing open source software?

Baker:  Initially, people think it will be cost and there can certainly be cost benefits to using Open Source software; however, some Enterprise Open Source software can be expensive to buy so cost savings from procurement alone are not a slam dunk. Real benefits come from the rate of innovation in Open Source software that can deliver new capabilities faster. Also, being able to attract young talent that wants to work with new technologies is important as companies compete to recruit new developers. Choice plays a part too - often similar or the same Open Source technologies are available from several companies and whilst there can certainly be barriers to switching, it is generally easier than proprietary technologies.

VMblog:  Are there any barriers or concerns to enterprises embracing open source software?

Baker:  There can be security concerns. Occasionally people mistakenly think that a product being Open Source means that suspect code can be inserted. This is far from the truth as the peer review model of Open Source makes it hard to hide suspect code in software. Open Source applications are generally very fast to patch code for security vulnerabilities too with track record being at least equal to, if not faster than their proprietary equivalents. Skills shortage can be a problem too with Enterprises competing for staff with skills and experience in specific areas.

VMblog:  How does using open source software specifically help enterprises dedicate resources to focus on innovation?

Baker:  Many new technologies that give businesses an advantage are made available to Enterprises as Open Source first. Examples of this are Big Data analytics with applications such as Hadoop or Machine learning which before the Open Source implementations were only affordable by Governments and large mega corps. With such tools now readily available, Enterprises can use them to develop new lines of business, improve efficiency and better serve their customers.

VMblog:  Do you see open source becoming the default business model for enterprise software?

Baker:  Yes. Open Source commoditizes the layers of technology in a business which is needed if Enterprises are to be able to manage the scale and pace of delivery they need to in a fast changing world. Expensive or slow moving proprietary technology will struggle to keep up and only survive only in niche areas.

VMblog:  How have Canonical and Ubuntu helped to pave the way for enterprises to adopt open source?

Baker:  Much of the initial work to drive the first wave of traditional Enterprise Open Source adoption was done before we came around. Recognizing this, we focused on the newer and emerging technologies such as cloud, containers, big data and machine learning. Ubuntu is by far the most popular open source operating system in the cloud and as Enterprises move from their traditional in-house platforms to the cloud they are discovering Ubuntu and with it, new ways to accelerate their business. It is a great time to be a part of it!


Once again, thanks to Mark Baker, Ubuntu server and cloud product manager at Canonical, for taking time out to speak with

Published Tuesday, August 02, 2016 7:01 AM by David Marshall
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