Open source has successfully penetrated into many of the commercial companies. Many industries have released libraries and tools in open source that have reduced development effort. Analytics industry has also benefited from open source software. One example of such a use is its reliance on the statistical package R, which is a GNU project and a free software, originally intended at helping the academic community.
While there are many users of open source in the industry, have there been cases of commercial companies engaging in open source? In fact, the biggest technology companies have been some of the biggest contributors to the open source software. The projects that have grown very huge – Apache, Chrome etc. – are all developed by software developers working in different companies. The process of re-inventing the wheel is eliminated to a greater extent when open source becomes the norm.
Even though using open source doesn’t necessarily mean contributions have to be made to the free software community, many companies have attracted talent using the open source contributions. The open source software implies that a large amount of programmers and developers are provided with the access to the source code. The time spent on creating open source software has not affected the productivity of these companies. It has in fact helped the employees gain domain expertise through collaboration.
Intellectual property concerns will not hinder adoption of open source by analytics companies
Analytics industry has shown some examples of open source contribution recently. LinkedIn has open sourced Pinot, a real-time analytics application that has been used in its “Who viewed your Profile” feature. Following a similar trend, HP also has its big data analytics platform – HPHaven – released as open source. Open source fosters innovation. What are the other benefits that a company gets from going open source? Why would the analytics companies engage in open source development?
According to a study that explores the motivations of companies in contributing to open source, increasing innovations, the ability to sell complimentary services and cost cutting are the reasons why companies are interested in the growth of the open source community. The fear of losing competitive edge by not holding the intellectual property is something that inhibits many companies from contributing to the open source software. Monetizing from another company’s open source efforts are not prevalent in the industry and even if it was, similar thefts would have happened under a proprietary license too!
Analytics industry can improve its reach by adopting open source
Open source contributions in the analytics sector can bring enhanced learning opportunities to the community as a whole. Contributions to open source means support in terms of employees actively participating in existing projects – organising to develop an existing technology by providing incremental support. The diversity of thoughts that the analytics companies espouse can certainly help in evolving a better technique or a tool that can be used by a wider population. Three of the obvious benefits of open source contribution relevant to the analytics industry are:
Open source for better interoperability
Interoperability between proprietary platforms is an issue that would hamper the growth of an industry. The open source software provides such a space where the competing companies can focus on building the features that differentiate them on the basis of a common code that is available to all. The building of standards and procedures would naturally involve a larger number of organisations participating in the exercise which means developing of best practices across the industry.
Open source to increase analytics penetration
The challenge that analytics industry face in some of the developing markets is the lack of awareness about the use cases of analytics. The industry which doesn’t understand the benefits of integrating analytics into their business practice would be reluctant in investing in analytics. However, some free and open source tools like Open Web Analytics help in different organisations try out analytics in some areas, for the starters.
Open source to demonstrate technical ability
The amount of open source contributions made by a company (or individuals from a company) showcase the expertise of the company has in a particular domain. The contributions of the employees lift up the brand of the company and can also act as marketing collaterals for improving its business. The open source platform is an open place where the ability to think innovatively can be measured by a potential customer.
Open source should be in the agenda of analytics companies for the benefits it bring to the table in terms of higher visibility and better business opportunities. The network effect of adoption of analytics and other motivations about cost cutting provide a concrete case for being serious about open source contributions.