Open source software (OSS) is changing the face of the IT landscape. In fact, IDC analyst Al Hilwa went so far as to state that OSS is poised to “eat the world” in a recent article.

For example, imagine you work in the sales industry. It’s likely that the technology you use at your job each day is derived from open source code. In fact, the most notable customer relationship management (CRM) platforms in today’s businesses aren’t proprietary but instead, open source innovations—think SugarCRM or Zurmo. OSS is also making waves in the healthcare industry—a subject we’ve discussed recently on this blog—by way of creating big data analytics tools that help doctors more effectively aggregate patient data. As such, it’s important for not only IT decision makers or Web developers but for business leaders in a wide range of markets and industries to understand the immense omnipotence of OSS in today’s technology market.

open source

OSS is swiftly emerging at the forefront of technology across a range of markets and industries, replacing organizations’ former use of proprietary software. But, what makes OSS so favored over proprietary software?

Here are a few core differentiators between the two options:

Cost efficiency: To put it simply, propriety software, must be purchased. In addition, it cannot be modified to fit a particular developer’s or business’s needs without absorbing more vendor-specific costs brought on by additional hardware or software. With open source, developers and IT managers can include open source code into their project or business infrastructure free of cost —as long as certain rules are followed. For example, it’s important that businesses and developers understand the attributes of the open source content they wish to use, to ensure they’re in compliance with the code’s licensing obligations and free of open source security vulnerabilities. Once this is confirmed, code modifiers can integrate and configure the open source code however they see fit—free from vendor lock-in and hidden fees.

Community: A key differentiator of OSS is its supportive community base. Behind all OSS innovations stands an inclusive, encouraging team that varies in expertise, industry and ideas. For example, groups like the Eclipse Foundation invite community members to collaborate and contribute to what has become the de facto standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE). Conversely, proprietary software only has a team of company-specific developers, which limits brainstorming possibilities and outside perspectives. When developers choose to open their code to the public, masses of innovators are able to access the code and modify and distribute it in ways that the original creator may not have even imagined. The biggest game-changing aspect of OSS is, in fact, its openness. Due to its ability to adapt and integrate into so many different technologies, it’s been able to out-pace proprietary software that does not have this flexibility. It is clear, we are forging ahead into an open source world.