May the Open Source be with you

The halls of the Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, are not a great place to be selling proprietary software. More than 700 delegates attended 127 sessions and visited 20 demo stations, all dedicated to maximising the opportunities that open source offers.

SUSE, now a Micro Focus company, has been creating open source software, Linux and cloud infrastructure solutions for more than 20 years. It was the first company to market Linux for the enterprise and more than 13,000 businesses worldwide now use SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Open source is embraced by more companies than ever before to simplify application deployment on OpenStack-based cloud infrastructures.


Tale of the tape

The venue was once home to the Dutch stock exchange, the floors strewn with tickertape tracking the ups and downs of the national economy. Fluctuating fortunes are now measured in other ways – not least in how organizations manage disruptive technologies and maintain optimum levels of customer service. But innovation can be as elusive as inspiration. That’s why they come to events like this – to see what open source can achieve.

The Westinghouse Electric Company was awarded the SUSE Always Open Customer of the Year award for excellence in using SUSE solutions to ‘control, optimize and innovate’ their IT environment. They will not be the last organisation to maximise the close development relationship between SUSE and SAP.

The opening keynotes by Michael Miller, SUSE Sales VP and Nils Brauckmann, SUSE President and General Manager, highlighted partnerships as key to success in the new world of open source. Both speakers highlighted data access, management and storage as new battlegrounds and SUSE just won twice at the 2015 Storage Awards. SUSE used the conference to announce that they are set to collaborate with SAP on the OpenStack cloud provider interface. The two men believe that only open source can support the innovation needed to win these struggles.

Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?

It’s not surprising that open source zealots would bang their own drum. But other voices are speaking up in favour of the freedom to innovate that open source offers. Microsoft, HP and other companies on that scale offer open source options. And when IBM book a stand you know that the industry’s major vendors view open source with respect.

Opinions formed many years ago are being revisited – this article deconstructs 10 of the more obvious concerns. And with more companies under growing pressure to keep the lights and fund innovation all while stymied with stagnant IT budgets, doing their own thing with open source becomes more tempting.

Micro Focus is happy to stay out of this particular argument. Borland GitCentric and Subversion Connector support open source standards without being open source tools per se. However, if open source works for some of our customers we are happy to support that, and we recognise the need to resolve business challenges through new thinking rather than throwing money at them.


On the right track

This is a central tenet of the wider Micro Focus approach and it was a key theme in our session at SUSECon. Derek Britton and Ed Airey hosted a well-attended discussion, Ready for the mobile-first and Cloud-first economy. In a room with an attractive – and distracting – view of Amsterdam’s Centraal train station, Micro Focus offered a new perspective on enabling mainframe and distributed systems to meet the demands of the digital age.

This could have been subtitled ‘where Micro Focus COBOL meets SUSE Linux Enterprise on the IBM mainframe’, because for organisations running core systems on outdated platforms, this slide deck offered a pathway to future innovation.

The key is to leverage what’s there and just add what’s needed. Because in most cases the current IT has enduring value and the organization that adds to it rather than risking it all in a drastic package replacement or rewrite strategy will achieve an advantage over those that fail to recognise this potential.


Taking core applications into the future

The IT challenges are many and resolution depends on the organization’s ability to form a future-proof platform strategy. In short, where can the organization run the core business applications that have underpinned past success? Many are moving away from older variants of UNIX or other proprietary machines, such as UNYSIS or Tandem, and towards emerging standards, such as Linux. Rehosting to open architectures can reduce TCO by up to 90%.

But the platform is just half the story. Indeed, the true value to the organization of their core systems is the business logic and data, rather than the platform or language. So protecting, evolving and enhancing that value in the digital age is vital. As such, Application development – adapting older code to meet business changes – requires some thought, too. But there are plenty of options. A modern IDE can breathe new life into long-standing applications – an issue for the many enterprises whose portfolio is 65% COBOL.

Imagine the banking network using COBOL apps to run their ATM network. Those same apps now need to support mobile device access. That’s a technological innovation that the original developers could not have anticipated a good example of the disruptive and mobile technologies now challenging many organisations. And who can predict the next one?

Whatever the next innovation, maximising the enduring value of the open mainframe, COBOL and SUSE combination to create a back end IT infrastructure robust enough to withstand future demands is a business-critical decision. Platform selection is another strategic decision requiring a well-considered answer – let us assume that the movement from UNIX or proprietary systems to Linux (whether on a new IBM LinuxOne or other hardware) will appear on many boardroom agendas in the future. Importantly, rehosting to an open architecture liberates developers from the prescriptive structures of proprietary code. It creates the potential for organisations to create their own futures, built on platforms and applications built for their own requirements. So – will the source be with you?

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