Open-source and water. Same or different? | SUSE Communities

Open-source and water. Same or different?


Quite frequently I get questions from people around me about how open-source software differs from proprietary software. The formal answer is that with open-source the source code is owned by no one and available to everyone, while proprietary software vendors keep the code of the program secret. However, I have found this answer does not always offer sufficient clarity.

Hence, I often compare open-source software to water. This explanation seems much more effective. Water is a utility and thus attainable for everyone. It’s the same when cloud computing is compared to electricity, which is also a utility. In the early days, each company made its own electricity. Later it appeared to be more useful to connect to the grid. In the early computing days every company had its own server park, but now most companies use the server parks of third parties (better known as cloud providers).

Water belongs to all, it’s freely available for and can be used by everyone. Just like – you probably guessed- open-source software. There are different sorts types of water and different applications for it: drinking water, process water, water used for fire putting out fires, bathing water and so on. Each type of water has its own characteristics. And in much the same way, there are different open-source software systems.

You can get started by making open-source programs suitable for your own needs. You can also go to a company that has already made the software Enterprise ready and offers additional services on top. You can drill a well (with the right permits) and pump up your own water, but you can also get a subscription to a water supplier who treats the water before consumption, feeds it through a grid and ensures delivery. Just like open-source software.

Usually, this answer clarifies much more than when I use IT-terminology. Hope it’s clear for you too! But if you would like to have a more extensive chat with me on this, or if you’d like to know more about the possibilities that open-source can do for you and/or your organization feel free to contact me. I am more than willing to take this further with you.

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