Support for open source software in IT environments

Any reservations that businesses might have had about adopting open source software for critical business functions are long gone. Studies show that over 90% of IT managers consider open source software to be “strategically important” and that over 87% of companies today use open source applications. Companies embark on open source journeys – building data pipelines with Splunk, using MuleSoft to connect applications, orchestrating workloads using containers – because they want to take advantage of flexibility, sharing and portability open source software.

Yet open source continues to cause support headaches. As Forrester said: “79% of IT managers struggle with real-time open source support. Since open source is, by definition, open, its creators don’t automatically maintain it the way vendors of proprietary software would. Open source software can have bugs and technical challenges just like any other set of programs. So companies try to manage its usage by hiring developers with specific open source skills and concocting support agreements to troubleshoot specific platforms.

However, they often fail. Somewhere in their open source journey, many companies find that they lack the knowledge and technical capabilities to support their growing open source environments from an operational services perspective.

In doing so, they may face a number of challenges. One is about problem solving. If an organization registers a ticket with an open source community, resolving a technical issue can take weeks or months. Service organizations can solve these problems, but unless they have knowledge and experience across all platforms, they can solve a problem in the short term and not approach the problem from a long term perspective.

Another challenge: find talent which includes open source technologies used by organizations. Open source developers have specific and unique knowledge sets for their specific applications. This means that if an organization is running 16 different open source application stacks, it often needs 16 different developers available around the world for operational support. Then, once you’ve found qualified developers, there’s the added complication of keeping them. If a developer specializing in MySQL leaves, updates to the database project may stop.

Additionally, organizations tend to have difficulty keeping up to date with their licensing requirements. If they are running many open source stacks, they need to know the licenses for each and whether the licenses are compatible. They need to understand which version of an app is supported, which version is recommended, and when specific versions are being discontinued. Additionally, what vulnerabilities is each software stack within open source exposed to? Organizations install open source applications in multiple environments – legacy platforms, private cloud, public cloud, containerized workloads – without knowing any rights or implications. How do you ensure that asset management in your open source is compliant and secure?

With the growing importance of open source for today’s businesses and the complexity of these issues, many companies are looking for enterprise-level third-party support agreements. Here are three best practices to keep in mind when trying to optimize open source technologies.

1. Know what’s under your roof
Most companies run dozens, if not hundreds, of open source applications. If they haven’t done an accurate tally of what’s installed and what’s been discontinued, they won’t know what to assign a third-party organization to the service. To operate effectively, you need to see the big picture of operational excellence through a single window.

It starts with the most important applications – the business horses running ERP, CRM, financial, or manufacturing information systems. But it does not stop there. It should extend to all smaller community styles, plugins, and any dependencies they track.

If you are engaging with a third party group to maintain open source platforms, you need to work together to create an asset management system. Most operational managers don’t know what technologies developers use on a daily basis. Much of today’s development takes place in microservices that developers build and tear down in hours. You should keep track of these fractional changes that can expose your organization to security threats.

This also extends to licenses. Having a vendor handling the complicated open source licensing matrix takes the stress out and helps organizations stay in compliance. What is the state of the environment? When does it fall outside the scope from a legal point of view? What is the next version that the user should update to? If you don’t update by the prescribed date, what security limits will you be limited to? These are all critical questions that need to be answered.

2. Choose services that match your needs

Support terms can vary widely depending on the IT environments the business uses.

If you operate exclusively in a private cloud environment, you are less exposed to open source interactions. Thus, these situations require less intensive ongoing support. Using open source applications in hybrid cloud environments requires tools that can work in both private and public environments. Public cloud environments open up applications to more vulnerabilities, so companies will need to invest to stay in touch.

Support agreements may also overlap. Companies that have many applications – open source, proprietary, and built in-house – have many different agreements that cover different departments, geographies, and the applications themselves. There is an advantage to engaging with a business organization that can support multiple technologies and multiple domains. But what responsibility should you outsource to this group?

It often depends on how different organizations operate and the structure of service level agreements (SLAs). Do you want to give the business organization the responsibility of resolving all tickets and handling all disputes? Does the organization need to monitor certain issues and escalate them if they are not resolved? Does the company’s vendor have the right multi-vendor agreements in place to handle situations involving open source globally?

3. Embrace open source support holistically

To get the most out of open source technologies, businesses need to think beyond open source support. They should engage with a support partner who knows their entire technology environment and is committed to problem solving holistically.

This means solving a problem with an open source application in several ways. One is to work directly with the open source community to manage a long term solution to the problem. Another is to do the coding alone to fill the immediate need. If the issue with the open source application affects a larger technology initiative, an enterprise support partner should be able to work with the organization to deliver a better solution that incorporates another platform anchored in another technology.

The holistic approach is to help an organization generate a holistic experience – with open source software as an important component. Organizations can generate business value through the use of open source. To do this, they can engage with support organizations to embrace innovation while remaining compliant and secure throughout the software lifecycle.

Open source has advantages and risks. Approaching it in a structured way and engaging with trusted partners accelerates the benefits and mitigates the risks.

Click on here to learn more about how HPE can help you optimize your entire IT environment.


About Jeroen Kleen

Jeroen Kleen is a distinguished technologist at HPE. He brings his 23 years of experience, knowledge and technical expertise to develop new HPE Pointnext Hybrid Cloud service opportunities. Its goal is to enhance the new HPE digital customer experience with new interactive and differentiated HPE Pointnext operational support services. These new, results-driven services will help customers transform and operate more easily in the ever-changing cloud and containerized workloads. Its pragmatic, customer-centric approach is what defines the basis for a new and differentiated yet comprehensive customer experience on which HPE is building. In addition to work, he loves to sail his boat with the family and fly with his drone.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Comments are closed.