16th January 2018

As a DevOps engineer, what is your experience of the Open Source?

One of my first experiences with Open Source software has been running RedHat Linux 6.1 (circa 1999). I’ve since developed a keen interest in free software and Open source software, which I’ve tried to use in almost all of my personal and professional projects.
I’ve used open source software in…

  • System and network administration (Linux, squid, samba)
  • Software development (IDEs, libraries, ticket management tools, source control)
  • Graphics (GIMP, Blender) as well as sound and movie editing.

Why do MagenTys (and many others) favour open-source? what do these offer you over licensed tools, aside from the fact they are free?

There are a few other benefits from using open source tools, these include:

  • Transparency (users can access the source code)
  • Lack of licensing hassles
  • Wider adoption
  • Tighter security
  • Fewer bugs
  • Quicker defect resolution,
  • Ability to dive deep into the source code, if needs be.
  • Almost non-existent risk of vendor lock-in

But obviously, this doesn’t apply to *all* open source projects

What Open Source software are you using right now?

I am currently using Git, Linux, Bash, Python, nginx, Docker kibana, Elastic Search, Ansible and of course, Cinnamon and Donut.

How do MagenTys contribute to open source?

At MagenTys, we are currently contributing by:

  • The release of Cinnamon, Cherry, Donut and other tools as open source
  • Using open source software and programming languages within our projects and with our clients
  • Actively contributing to other open source tools by raising bugs and fixing them.

There must be thousands of projects out there, as well as new ones every day, how do we keep ahead of the curve and make the right choices for our clients?

Personally, I like to subscribe to newsletters of a few major tech-related website (e.g. arstechnica) and specialist ones, e.g. from open source vendors to keep up to date with the latest tools and systems that we can use with our clients.

In pretty much every area of the IT landscape there are a few established and well-known tools, which are quite safe choices in their area of applicability. However, the main issue is finding the right combination of tools to fit the problem and internal knowledge of the tool.

What are the disadvantages of using open-source and the impact eg. lack of support, lack of community, lack of documentation?

If an open source project is not maintained and/or doesn’t have a large community or documentation behind it, then you may find some limitations or bugs with little to no fixes for them. However, the good thing is that due to the source being public, one can still make use of it and improve it himself.

Is the software engineering world too reliant on open source?

If anything, it’s still relying too much on closed source software. In my opinion, this is unavoidable to an extent, as there are very good proprietary tools that the parent companies don’t want to disclose for IP reasons. In general, I think the more opensource tools are used the better.

Why do the corporates such as banks still ‘buy’ licensed tools?

The main reasons I can think of are…

  • Accountability – who is responsible (and has to pay) in case of problems
  • Support contract (although there are commercial support options for open source software as well)
  • IP issues and the need for tailored, bespoke systems that don’t fit well in the open source model
  • Legacy systems

What is the biggest threat to open source eg. security?

Security is one of the biggest thread for *closed* source software. If anything, security is one of the areas where the open source model has proven to be the most effective. If anyone can see the code, it means that “bad” guys and “good” guys are on a level playing field.

Top 3 tips for getting support

My top three tips for getting support are:

  • Be an active member of the tool community (not always possible) and know how to effectively ask for help (politeness and doing our own homework first is a must)
  • Make good use of StackOverflow (Google being the second choice here)
  • Commercial support contract for time-sensitive scenarios

Top 3 tips for introducing open source within a company

My top tips on introducing open source tools within a company are:

  • Don’t be a zealot
  • Suggest open source tools/software first
  • Show confidence in the tools, the important thing for the client is often delivery, not the tools themselves
  • A potentially sensitive benefit for the client is that they don’t have to pay licenses for the mere use of the tool, but only for the consultancy services around them, i.e. the knowledge of the person suggesting them.

And lastly, of course, come talk to MagenTys to discuss how open source may be the right choice for you.

Marcello Romani is a DevOps Engineer and Software Developer at MagenTys, to find out more about our DevOps services MagenTys has to offer, click here.

About Kayleigh Tiernan
Marketing Executive at MagenTys