Open source – A Virtual Test Bench

By: DT News Network
August, 25, 2017

Authored by Mr. Roshan Raj, Software Engineer at Xavient Information Systems

"Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." – Linus Torvalds

As per above maxim – The more people who can see and test a set of code, More is the chance, flaws will be caught and fixed quickly.

Open source license states – anyone can study, change and distribute the software for any purpose. And since coders are free to play with and update that software, innovation and rapid development happens naturally and quite often too.

Open source does not mean just making source code public, but it’s an invitation to people in the community sharing the same vision as the application does. Community collective contribution increases the rate of development assisted by peer reviews.

Unlike closed proprietary software, OSS can be altered and extended by any developer familiar with the source code. This grants organizations freedom from “vendor lock-in” and assures long-term viability.

Open source benefits

  1. Reliability

Reliability is a loose term. Generally it means the absence of defects that cause incorrect operation, data loss or sudden failures. 

Open Source projects dispense with the concept of anything easily recognisable as a formal specification. Deciding mutually what constitutes a bug is usually by agreement amongst the developers and users of the software (an overlapping community in many cases). Any obvious failure to perform is easily recognised as a bug, and also are failures to conform to appropriate published standards. Security related failures (exploits or vulnerabilities) are also clearly bugs. Each of these kind of bugs are usually addressed with speedy fixes, wherever possible, and Open Source advocates claim very rapid time-to-fix characteristics for software.

  1. Stability

The vendors need a stable revenue stream to be able to keep their businesses going. On the other hand, the customers are mostly unwilling to change or upgrade any product when it is working fine for their current needs. Software vendors thus need to apply a number of tactics to persuade their customers to upgrade more or less willingly.

Open Source Software is not the only remedy in this world of ever-changing software, but the worst effects of vendor-push can surely be mitigated by it.

  1. Auditability

Closed-source software forces its users to trust the vendor when claims are made for qualities such as security, freedom from backdoors, adherence to standards and flexibility in the face of future changes. If the source code is not available those claims simply remain claims. By publishing the source code, authors make it possible for users of the software to have confidence that there is a basis for those claims.

  1. Cost

Most current Open Source projects are also available free of fee and royalties, also leading to the confusion around the commonly used term `free software', which is an altogether different debatable topic though.

  1. Flexibility and freedom

Software flexibility is about being able to choose solutions suitable for the needs of the users. Open-source software can be tailored for the way you do business.

  1. Support and accountability

Open-source licenses typically disclaim all liabilities and warranties, including even basic warranties like merchantability and fitness for purpose. Those in the know, who have adopted Open Source Software already, will just ignore this aspect and choose the practical benefits of increased reliability and security, over unreal options to sue or pursue other remedies from a negligent vendor.

Some software vendors produce free software, and obtain large parts of their revenue from service and support (e.g. Zope). In other situations, open-source consultants will provide training and/or support for software they recommend (e.g. MongoDB). However, the fundamental advantage of open-source software when it comes to support, is that it's always possible to retain a company to provide support. Because the source code is freely available, organisations are not limited to obtaining support from the authors. There is no restriction on other suppliers learning enough about the software to provide adequate support whenever demand exists.

This paves an amazing opportunity to get a system tested and developed in no time by experts, who not only develop but also continue finding and fixing issues. Most companies have taken an approach of open-sourcing a part of their application to leverage Open source benefits.

Getting Software open source is like doing development over test bench with n number of developers looking into it, reporting, fixing issues and modifying software to needs.

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