One of the biggest IT challenges government organizations face in their efforts to modernize their systems is how to keep their options open for the future — and avoid the trappings that can come from committing to one primary vendor or technology platform.
Given shift from big monolithic IT environments to more agile cloud services, it would seem that agencies have more choices and flexibility today than in years past. Yet all too often, agencies find themselves trading one set of proprietary on-premise technologies for another set of proprietary services in the cloud.
That’s in part because, while the technologies may have changed, the economic forces have not. Agencies want the best value, as they should, but that often requires them to concentrate IT investments with a handful of contractors and their preferred suppliers. Vendors, meanwhile, live or die by ROI; so the more of a customer’s stack they can “own,” the greater their chances for survival.
It’s no wonder that the resulting technical debt, and its corrosive effect on modernization efforts, are driving CIOs and those they support to seek a better approach.
Open source solutions, of course, have long been a welcome alternative. But now they are an increasingly powerful way to future-proof your IT operations, especially as organizations continue to transition into the new technology era, built on portable services, APIs and agile development. Open source solutions:
- Modernize aging IT systems while enabling cloud and mobility for mission-critical initiatives, and time sensitive decisions.
- Ensure security perimeters are in place when accessing cloud applications from anywhere on any device, at any time.
- Facilitate rapid and continuous updates — keeping your systems safer and more secure.
- Provide the tools to stay compliant with pertinent regulations and guidelines for infrastructure and services across all environments.
But the power of open source solutions, and the vast community behind them, perhaps can best be illustrated by the remarkable speed with which the open source community has helped develop open source projects to tackle issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These projects — from tools to predict hospital enrollment from COVID-19 to tracking systems to develop the disease’s “family history” — remind us that it’s not the technology we have, but how we apply it to solve complex, real world problems.
Having spent my entire career working for large enterprise software companies, I come to the open source world as a user and a consumer of these technologies, giving me a unique perspective into their utility. But now, having met with hundreds of customers around the world as CEO of SUSE, the largest independent open source company in the world, I’ve also seen how open source solutions are helping enterprises achieve their digital transformation goals while positively impacting the world around them.
From a Federal perspective, we’re seeing open source solutions play an expanding role in helping civilian and defense agencies, for instance, develop real-time cyber defense mechanisms, using machine learning and AI algorithms.
We’re also seeing agencies adapting open source solutions for use in high performance super computers, to analyze vast volumes of criminal and terrorist data to gain greater insights and develop responses faster.
Not to mention, that open source solutions are paving the way towards a common IT layer that functions across a variety of on-prem and cloud environments.
From our perspective, we see open source not only as an increasingly powerful way for agencies to modernize their IT systems faster, but we also see the importance of helping customers capitalize on open source solutions based on what success means to them. With open source, you are not locked into a vendor, you have the ultimate flexibility to build your IT based on your needs. This is the value of open source, and with the powerful community of innovators, the power of many, open source innovations can help agencies start from where they are and get them to where they need to be.
In the end, it all comes down to serving our customers. It shouldn’t be about be beholden to our suppliers.
Melissa Di Donato spent 25 years in top leadership roles at leading enterprise software companies, including SAP, Salesforce and Oracle, before taking the helm in July of last year as CEO at SUSE, now the world’s largest independent open source company.