Guest View: What the evolution of open source can teach the public, private and people sectors

Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen

Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen modified

Photo - Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific, Red Hat.

As technology continues to become more of a commodity, the standardisation of networks can help spur more rapid innovation. We have seen how the adoption of open source and business analytics could provide added business value to the private sector, and how public sector can do the same to help drive efficiency and streamline processes as well.

In this article we will summarise a few ideas on where open source technology is headed, the trends we are witnessing in public sector, which are reflected in the private sector as well, and finally the predictions for 2014.

Open source becomes ubiquitous

During the past 10 to 15 years, open source technology has become more ubiquitous. Commercial offerings such as Amazon Web Services and Google built their infrastructures on open source technology, and a growing number of companies such as mobile and embedded companies, are increasing their investments in Linux.

In a September 2013 press release, Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, said, "Linux represents the future of how new software and technologies will be built." Open source technology is no longer deemed a 'disruptive' technology. Instead, open source is solving business challenges today, some of which enterprises may not have even thought of.

Working with and not against mandates
It is without question that governments work differently from enterprises. For governments or public agencies, it has long been a mandate to share best practices and processes, and in recent times, to work towards a transparent government with the approach of sharing and making data open to citizens. This push for government transparency and this collaboration aligns naturally with open source technology.

Learning is a two-way street
The government can learn a number of things from the private enterprises, especially about the proven characteristics of open source technology, which makes it viable for businesses. Stock exchanges, global financial institutions, media and entertainment companies, telcos are but a few examples of enterprises that have leveraged open source technology to achieve better scalability, reliability, agility and security for their unique business needs. Beyond technological learnings, in the recent IDC Government Insights 2014 Predictions for the U.S. Government, one of the essential guidance for governments is that they should also consider looking to the private sector (i.e. retail) for best practices in outreach, education, marketing and customer service.

What the private sector can learn from public agencies on the other hand is the openness to collaborate and contribute to communities. Paul Smith, vice president and general manager of public sector operations at Red Hat, pointed out during the 2013 Government Symposium that governments are very good at joining communities. One example of this collaboration is SELinux, which was initiated in early projects by the U.S. government and subsequently shared with the open source community. In Asia Pacific, adoption of open source technology in the public sector is still developing. In fact, Red Hat recently tied up with the Singapore government to push for the use of open source in developing data analytics application. This memorandum of understanding aims to help accelerate innovation and drive the adoption of business analytics with open source solutions.

With such initiatives, private sectors can learn from governments in terms of establishing and working with standards, specifically around security, that defines what enterprise class security is and what are industries' best practices. Paul added that not only the huge adoption of technologies is changing but the company culture as well. The open source model is making its way into a lot of other things especially how companies are run, how employees communicate and how companies collaborate with competitors and technologies.

Looking to 2014

Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager, Virtualization and OpenStack, Red Hat added that in the coming year, the public sector and other highly regulated industries, such as financial, are expected to reach the stage of production deployments of enterprise-grade OpenStack. Security will continue to be an aspect that these industries need to address as they move to the cloud. Driven by security, privacy and compliance needs, Balakrishnan predicts that the public sector and financial industries will turn to private cloud solutions like OpenStack to keep their most confidential data with them. And with tools such as OpenStack and OpenShift, the cloud will become an even easier platform to manage paving the way for open source to continue gaining momentum in 2014.

What we are seeing here is a future that has never been so open. Open source has become mainstream and it is where innovation is stemming from. From industries, organisations, partners to customers, they are bridging the innovation gap using open source standards, resulting in open development processes, interoperability, sharable resources, portable services and unified management. It has become prevalent throughout the region and it presents a two-way learning street between public, private and people sectors. Governments can take a page from the private sectors who consider open source as a viable, cost-efficient IT solution, while private organisations can learn from governments on ensuring open standards and policies to share and contribute back to the community for greater innovation. It will enable organisations to discern the value of the data they possess and use them to formulate effective strategies for organisation-wide transformation.
- Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen is Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific, Red Hat.