Opinion: \'Open Source Software will save SA billions\'

By   |  March 16, 2005

Open Source Software (OSS) is gaining in popularity as more companies begin to realise its benefits – and the cost savings that are associated with it.

This is the view of Michael Leeuwen, a director of local business solutions company, PM Tech Holdings, who says the widespread adoption of OSS platforms will save companies many millions of rand in enforced purchases of upgrades or the extra training that is required to support new versions of proprietary software alternatives.

\”At the same time, use of Open Source software, particularly by government and institutional users, will save South Africa billions of rand in license fee payments to foreign companies.\”

Against this backdrop, Leeuwen expects the local and African OSS markets to grow significantly in the next five years as both the public and private sectors throughout Africa include big spenders on technology.

\”African software users are learning that proprietary software has its drawbacks: bloatware, security loopholes, unrealistic license fees and an unsettling reliance upon a single vendor are some of them.

\”In organisations throughout Africa, an era of open-source standardisation, and a determination to condemn proprietary software drawbacks to history, is dawning,\” he says.

\”The rapid evolutionary process that OSS encourages produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see the source code.

\”Our challenge will be to make businesses aware of this and present OSS solutions in a commercially viable light – not creations by a band of amateur software experts, as some may currently see them,\” he stresses.

\”I foresee a future in which proprietary software is displaced by Linux, Apache, Java based offerings – and in which traditional database solutions are replaced by MySQL, an open-source relational database system already in widespread commercial use.

\”These systems have been proven to be robust and reliable in countless global installations – many responsible for running sizable elements of the Internet.\”

Turning to what is readily available, Leeuwen says there is a wealth of Open Source applications on offer – most are free of charge and ready for download via the Internet.

\”These range from up-to-the-minute anti-virus solutions to advanced groupware for mobile executives that can access MS exchange servers and link to Palm Pilots and other PDAs as well as Windows CE devices.

\”In addition, backup, archiving and intrusion detection tools are becoming increasingly commonplace.\”

Leeuwen cautions that while these systems are all easily downloaded and installed, it is advisable to contact an Open Source specialist to link these systems to existing platforms within an organisation – and to ensure that there are no security \”holes\”.

\”This is important because one of Open Source\’s key strengths is its external focus,\” adds Leeuwen. \”Companies looking to work collaboratively with other organisations, and those who are already using collaborative technologies, stand to gain much from an OSS platform.

\”However, it is just these environments which spawn security vulnerabilities – so it is wise to have all integrated elements checked out from this perspective.\”

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