A few weeks ago we published the post explaining why using open source tools and open source software in your business is generally a better choice compared to proprietary products when it comes to making your own web project.
Still, some of our potential clients have a biased opinion on that matter. When used in web development, the open source software may seem unreliable, insecure and, most frequently, having no future since it is not sponsored or monetized. To address those doubts we’d like to talk today about the ways and reasons of how the open source software has penetrated different markets over the years and thus proved that it can be reliable and secure to use, well, if not everywhere, then in most industry businesses.
Here we won’t mention user-centered solutions like browsers (where the open source Chrome browser has 41.4% market share at the moment) and operational systems (where Linux is used on 485 of top 500 supercomputers, on 75% of cloud servers and Linux-based Android drives 75% of mobile devices) as they are pretty obvious and are not completely related in our case. Instead, we'll focus on business solutions.
This is the sector where open source solutions have been dominating for more than 20 years. Since April 1996 the most popular web server is open-source Apache (and prior to it the first place was after the open-source NCSA, Apache's ancestor).
Apache supports most common languages and thanks to the huge community can offer a lot of additional functionality via extensions. Such features like authentication schemes, server-side language support and a big pile of modules for proxying, filtering, SSL support and many other tasks can be added in no time, not mentioning the number of software bundles for web service solutions containing the Apache HTTP server along with other web software (you may have heard of the most popular one named LAMP server).
The most popular alternative to Apache is the Microsoft’s Internet Information Services, a proprietary solution. Thus, it offers not so many modules (though it supports ASPX scripts and .NET framework and has a few nice diagnostic tools coming in a bundle). It’s main disadvantage is that it is available for Windows systems only, which in turn forces you to use Windows Server and increases the costs of running your product or service. It also has an ambiguous reputation of being a less secure option compared to others.
Although Microsoft’s IIS competes with Apache in terms of the market share, there are many open source alternatives, for instance, Nginx, Lighttpd, Monkey and Cherokee. Nginx, in particular, has over 20% of market share because it is extremely lightweight and highly scalable, and uses the event-driven, asynchronous architecture (unlike top solutions offering standard threaded- and process-oriented approaches). For instance, Nginx is used by such well-known companies as WordPress, Netflix and AirBnB.
The database management systems evolve very actively — their market size is forecasted to increase from $40 billion now to $50 billion by 2017.
— Facebook has created its own open-source database management system to serve it’s enormous amounts of data;
— As you see from the table above, the second place is taken by open-source MySQL, though it was acquired by Oracle.
Why this happens?
Open source database management systems (DBMS) are already mature enough to be used in large organizations, and the state of the market proves it: nowadays many of the latter either already use or consider using them.
Their maturity is proved not only by the number of years spent on their development, but also by the fact that they are open-source, which provides the users with the relief that they can figure out how they work if needed. Earlier, when choosing the DBMS, you could only rely on the success stories of its users, mostly filtered out by the vendor. Now you can dig deeper, scan blog posts and Stack Exchange discussions for situations like yours to see how the software is going to behave in your case, how flexible it can be and what problems it may cause. In other words, you have more control and more information to make final choice, and that's a strong argument for many teams.
Finally, if you’re a project manager or a business owner, you don’t need to get into such technical details and should be able to delegate the choice to your infrastructure development team. Indeed, often it is devops who make such decisions, and most of them tend to switch to open source in the recent years. As a result, according to Gartner, half of top 10 most popular database engines are open source. In the end, who is more competent for you in that question, a vendor’s salesperson or a qualified system engineer?
A small remark in addition: another recent trend is turning to the so-called NoSQL databases, which have simpler architecture behind it and allow developers to store data across a big number of servers. In this market the best solutions are again open-source ones; Oracle has tried to enter it, but hasn't succeeded yet.
Content Management Systems
The CMS market is another market completely conquered by open source solutions, with Wordpress having over 58% of the market share among sites having any known CMS installed. Moreover, most sites in the top 10 list above are done via open-source CMSs, while proprietary offerings are sitting in the next dozen providing pretty specific solutions to narrow groups of clients like e-store managers, startup owners and forum administrators.
However, unlike in case of Apache, the CMS market was first filled with proprietary solutions. Years ago RedDot, Obtree and OpenText were the top used CMSs, but because of their high cost they were also the only used solutions. And who were their clients? Big corporations and enterprises, obviously. But the more internet was gaining popularity, the more demand there was for the small and flexible solutions for small businesses, and this is how open-source Wordpress, TYPO3 and Joomla appeared.
So for CMS users it was not only about the price, but also about greater flexibility and vendor independence. In the meanwhile, the growing popularity of open-source content management systems has been attracting more and more developers gathering into communities around each product, which led to an unbelievable growth of their functionality, popularity and distribution.
In fact, this whole case alone is often the reason why even now many companies decide to make their software open source!
On our portfolio page we share the info about the tools we have been using in each of our highlighted projects, and you can see that most of them are open source solutions. They indeed fit better for the challenges we have, because they’re free, well-documented and we know that when needed the communities around them can provide us with the necessary info should we have any critical issues using them.
And if youre still hesitating on whether to use open source solutions in your business, be sure there’s no doubt you can make your product successful with it.