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Open source software (OSS) is a type of software whose source code is available to the public. This means that anyone can view, modify, and distribute the software as they see fit. OSS is an alternative to the traditional proprietary software model, where the source code is kept secret and users are restricted in their ability to modify or share the software.
OSS is rooted in the belief that software should be a community resource. Developers from around the world can collaborate on OSS projects, making improvements and adding features that benefit everyone. This collaborative model also allows for rapid innovation, as the combined efforts of many developers can often outpace those of a single company.
However, it's important to note that 'open source' doesn't necessarily mean 'free'. While many OSS projects are available for free, developers can choose to charge for their software if they wish. The key difference is that the source code must be available to users, allowing them to modify and distribute the software as they see fit.
The concept of open source software may seem like a new phenomenon, but its roots go back several decades. In the early days of computing, software was often shared freely among academics and researchers. The idea was to foster collaboration and accelerate innovation, much like the open source movement today.
However, as the software industry began to take shape in the 1970s and 1980s, companies started to see the value in proprietary software. They began to keep their source code secret, selling licenses to users that allowed them to use the software but not to modify or distribute it. This shift towards proprietary software marked a significant change in the software industry, and it was not without controversy.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a group of developers led by Richard Stallman began to push back against this trend. They believed that software should be a communal resource, and they started to develop free software that anyone could modify and distribute. This marked the beginning of the modern open source movement, and it has been growing ever since.
Closed source software (also called custom code or proprietary code) is protected, preventing unauthorized users from using or viewing the source code. Any attempts to modify, delete, or copy closed code components can result in legal repercussions or voiding the warranty.
In contrast, open source software allows users to copy, delete, or modify code components, keeping the code open so that others can include this code in their program, according to the licensing granted by the open source code creators. Let’s explore the key differences between open and closed source software.
Closed source software is typically developed and maintained by a single company or organization. This centralized development structure allows for dedicated customer support teams that can quickly address any issues or concerns that users may encounter. Closed source software often comes with comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and training resources to assist users in maximizing its potential.
On the other hand, open source software is developed by a community of contributors who collaborate to improve and enhance the software. While this distributed development model fosters innovation and creativity, it can sometimes lead to limited support options.
However, open source communities are known for their vibrant and helpful nature. Users can seek assistance from forums, discussion groups, and online communities where experienced developers and enthusiasts are eager to lend a helping hand. Open source software also benefits from continuous updates and improvements driven by a diverse range of contributors.
Closed source software is often designed with a focus on user-friendliness and intuitive interfaces. Extensive user testing and interface design considerations are conducted to ensure a smooth and seamless user experience. Closed source software tends to have a consistent look and feel, making it easier for users to navigate and accomplish their tasks efficiently.
Open source software, on the other hand, may have varying degrees of usability. Since it is developed by a diverse community, usability can sometimes be a hit or miss. However, many open source projects have made significant strides in improving their user interfaces and overall user experience. Some projects even have dedicated teams focused on enhancing usability.
Moreover, open source software provides users with the freedom to customize and tailor the software to their specific needs, which can greatly enhance usability for those willing to invest time and effort.
Closed source software often benefits from a dedicated team of security experts who identify and patch vulnerabilities. The proprietary nature of closed source software can make it more difficult for malicious actors to exploit security loopholes, as the source code is not freely available for scrutiny. Additionally, closed source software companies often prioritize security audits and regular updates to ensure that their software remains robust against emerging threats.
Open source software involves a different approach to security. The transparency of the source code allows a global community of developers to scrutinize it for vulnerabilities and suggest improvements. This collaborative effort can lead to rapid identification and resolution of security issues.
Open source software communities often have a culture of sharing security best practices and collectively addressing vulnerabilities. However, users must still exercise caution and ensure that they are using official releases from trusted sources, and that the open source projects they are using are regularly maintained.
Closed source software is typically associated with licensing fees or subscription-based pricing models. These costs can vary greatly depending on the complexity and intended use of the software. While closed source software may require an upfront investment, it often comes bundled with customer support, regular updates, and additional features.
Open source software is generally available for free. Users can download, use, and modify the software without any licensing costs. This makes OSS an attractive option for individuals and organizations with limited budgets. However, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership when evaluating open source software. While the software itself may be free, there may be additional costs associated with implementation, customization, and ongoing support.
Closed source software offers limited flexibility. Users are generally limited to the features and functionalities provided by the software vendor. Customization options may be limited, and users may have to rely on the vendor's roadmap for future enhancements. While closed source software can often meet the needs of a broad range of users, it may not be suitable for those seeking extensive customization or integration capabilities.
By providing users with access to the source code, open source software allows for customization and modification to meet specific needs. This flexibility is particularly valuable for organizations with unique requirements or those seeking to integrate the software with existing systems and workflows. Users can tailor the software to their precise needs, whether it involves adding new features, removing unnecessary ones, or integrating with other software solutions.
Open source licenses are legal agreements that specify how an OSS can be used, modified, and distributed. These licenses are crucial for maintaining the open nature of OSS. Without them, developers could potentially restrict how their software is used, undermining the whole concept of open source. There are many different types of open source licenses, each with its own set of conditions and permissions. Some licenses are very permissive, allowing users to do almost anything with the software. Others, known collectively as ‘copyleft’ licenses, are more restrictive, placing certain limitations on how the software can be modified or distributed. Including components with copyleft licenses in your software can severely limit your ability to commercialize or monetize the software.
The Apache License is a permissive license created by the Apache Software Foundation. It allows users to use, modify, and distribute the software, provided that they comply with the terms of the license. This includes providing attribution to the original author and including a copy of the license in any distributions.
One of the notable features of the Apache License is its grant of a patent license. This means that contributors automatically grant a license to their patents that would be infringed by the software. This feature helps to protect users and developers from potential patent litigation.
The MIT License is named after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where it originated. The MIT License is simple and straightforward, allowing users to do whatever they want with the software, as long as they provide attribution and include a copy of the license.
The MIT License does not include a patent license, which differentiates it from the Apache License. However, its simplicity and permissiveness have made it a popular choice for many open source projects.
The BSD License originated at the University of California, Berkeley. There are several variations of the BSD License, but they all allow users to use, modify, and distribute the software, provided they meet certain conditions.
These conditions usually involve providing attribution and including a copy of the license. Some versions of the BSD License also include a non-endorsement clause, which prohibits the use of the names of the contributors to endorse or promote products derived from the software.
The GNU General Public License (GPL) was created by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, and it has been instrumental in the growth of the open source movement. The GPL requires that any derivative works must also be licensed under the GPL. This ensures that the software remains open and free for everyone to use, modify, and distribute. But at the same time, it severely restricts the ability to commercialize any software based on GPL-licensed technology.
The GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) is a less restrictive version of the GPL. It allows developers to use LGPL-licensed code in proprietary software, provided that they make the source code for the LGPL components available. The LGPL is a popular choice for libraries and other software components that are designed to be used in a variety of projects. It provides a balance between openness and flexibility. However, like the GPL, the LGPL is still a copyleft license, which means that it imposes certain restrictions on how the software can be used.
The Eclipse Public License (EPL) is used by the Eclipse Foundation for their widely-used Eclipse IDE, among other projects. While the EPL is a copyleft license, it is less restrictive than the GPL. It allows developers to use EPL-licensed code in proprietary software, without requiring that the entire software be EPL-licensed.
The Mozilla Public License (MPL) is used by the Mozilla Foundation for their Firefox web browser and other projects. The MPL is similar to the EPL in that it allows for the use of MPL-licensed code in proprietary software. The MPL has a unique feature called the 'file-level copyleft'. This means that modifications to existing MPL-licensed files must be released under the MPL, but new files can be licensed as the developer sees fit.
The Business Source License (BSL) is a type of software license that offers a unique approach to balancing the benefits of open source and proprietary software. It was created by MariaDB Corporation founder Michael "Monty" Widenius. Here are some key features of the BSL:
An open source software policy is a set of rules and guidelines that govern how an organization or individual uses and contributes to open source software. The policy outlines the practices and procedures that need to be followed when dealing with open source software to ensure compliance with licenses, protect intellectual property rights, and maintain the integrity of the software.
The policy also provides guidance on how to contribute to open source projects. This includes how to submit changes, how to handle disputes, and how to acknowledge the work of others. It's important to remember that contributing to open source requires more than writing code. It can also involve reporting bugs, improving documentation, and helping other users.
Keeping an open source software policy helps in managing risks associated with the use of open source software. It ensures that the organization is aware of its responsibilities and obligations when using and distributing open source software. A well-defined policy can also help in decision-making processes, ensuring that the use of open source software aligns with the organization's strategic goals.
Open source security is a growing concern in software development organizations, because most enterprise software projects include thousands of open source components. Here are a few ways to ensure open source software does not compromise the security of your applications.
Securing open source software requires continuous monitoring for security updates. Many open-source projects are updated regularly, and it’s crucial to keep track of these updates and apply them promptly.
Updates often contain security patches that fix known vulnerabilities in the software. Failing to apply these patches can leave your systems exposed to potential threats. Therefore, it is essential to have a system in place that alerts you when new updates or vulnerabilities are detected.
Vulnerability scanning is a proactive approach to identifying security weaknesses in your OSS. It involves using specialized tools to scan your software for known vulnerabilities. These tools compare the components of your software against databases of known vulnerabilities, such as the National Vulnerability Database (NVD).
Open source vulnerability scanning helps you identify and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. Regular scanning can also help you understand your software better, allowing you to make informed decisions about its security. New vulnerabilities are discovered regularly, so continuous scanning is necessary to ensure your software remains secure.
A binary repository is a storage location where you can keep binary files, the compiled version of your software. Using a binary repository can significantly improve the security of your open source software.
A binary repository allows you to keep track of all the versions of your software. This makes it easier to manage updates and patches, ensuring that you are always using the latest, most secure version of your software.
A binary repository can also help you control access to your software. You can set permissions to determine who can access your software, preventing unauthorized access and potential security threats.
Software composition analysis (SCA) is a method used to identify open source components within your software and assess their security risks. It provides a comprehensive view of your software's composition, allowing you to understand its security posture better.
SCA tools can identify known vulnerabilities in the open-source components of your software. They can also check for compliance with licensing requirements, ensuring that you are not violating any open-source licenses.
By providing a detailed view of your software's composition, SCA can help you manage your open-source usage effectively. It allows you to make informed decisions about the open-source components you use, enhancing the security and compliance of your software.
Now that we’ve covered the important considerations for using open source software in your projects, let’s review some of the world’s most popular open source software.
WordPress is an open source content management system that powers approximately 40% of all websites. It's known for its simplicity, flexibility, and user-friendly interface. With WordPress, you can create any type of website, from a personal blog to a full-fledged e-commerce site.
WordPress has an extensive ecosystem of plugins and themes. With thousands of options to choose from, you can extensively customize your website. And because it's open source, you have the freedom to modify and extend WordPress to suit your specific needs.
Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) used to make websites and applications. It's flexible and customizable, allowing you to build and manage different kinds of sites—from simple blogs to complex user communities.
One of the key strengths of Drupal is its scalability. It's designed to handle high-traffic sites and has proven its ability to scale in real-world scenarios at various organizations that manage large volumes of content.
The Drupal community is large and diverse, with hundreds of thousands of active contributors constantly working on enhancing its features and performance. This active participation ensures that Drupal remains a robust platform for web development.
Joomla is another open-source CMS that empowers you to create dynamic websites and applications. It offers a balance between ease-of-use and extensibility, making it a popular choice among both beginners and experienced developers.
Joomla offers an application framework that allows developers to create add-ons, extending the power of Joomla beyond a simple CMS. The Joomla community is large and active. They are committed to keeping Joomla user-friendly, powerful, and up-to-date.
Ghost is an open source blogging platform that's gaining popularity for its focus on simplicity and usability. Unlike WordPress, which has evolved into a full content management system, Ghost remains true to its blogging roots.
Ghost is designed to make blogging as straightforward as possible. Its clean, clutter-free interface lets you focus on your content. And while it may not have as many plugins and themes as WordPress, Ghost offers enough customization options to make your blog distinct.
As a headless CMS, Strapi decouples the front-end and back-end development. This gives developers the freedom to use any technology stack they prefer for the front-end, while Strapi manages the back-end.
Docker is an open source platform that automates the deployment of applications inside software containers. It provides an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating-system-level virtualization on Windows and Linux.
Docker utilizes the resource isolation features of the Linux kernel (such as cgroups and kernel namespaces) and a union-capable file system (like OverlayFS) to allow independent containers to run within a single Linux instance, avoiding the overhead of starting and maintaining virtual machines.
Docker can package and run an application in a loosely isolated environment called a container. This isolation and security allow you to run many containers simultaneously on a given host. Containers are lightweight and contain everything needed to run the application, ensuring that software runs reliably when moved from one computing environment to another.
Learn more in the detailed guide to Docker Containers (coming soon)
Kubernetes is a portable, extensible, open source platform for managing containerized workloads and services. It supports declarative configuration and highly flexible automation. It has a large, rapidly growing ecosystem, with Kubernetes services, support, and tools widely available.
Kubernetes provides a platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts. Originally developed by Google and donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), it offers a solution for container orchestration, increasing the scalability, availability, and efficiency of applications.
**Learn more in these detailed guides:
Official project page: https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies/cloud-computing/openshift
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OpenShift is a family of containerization software products developed by Red Hat. Its flagship product is the OpenShift Container Platform—an on-premises platform as a service built around Docker containers, which are orchestrated and managed by Kubernetes on a foundation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
OpenShift provides developers with an integrated development environment (IDE) for building and deploying Docker-formatted containers, and then managing them with the open source Kubernetes container orchestration platform. This platform has been built with enterprise requirements like security in mind, offering automated updates and scaling.
Learn more in the detailed guide to the Openshift Container Platform
Rancher enables organizations to deploy and manage Kubernetes at scale. It's designed to address the operational and security challenges of managing multiple Kubernetes clusters across different infrastructure providers.
Rancher offers a user-friendly approach to Kubernetes management. It provides a single, consistent interface to deploy and manage all your Kubernetes clusters, regardless of where they are running.
The Rancher community helps make Kubernetes accessible to everyone. Their contributions focus on simplifying the complexities of Kubernetes, making it easier for more organizations to adopt and benefit from this technology.
Acorn Runtime is an application deployment framework that is deployed on any Kubernetes cluster, enabling it to run Acorn images. With the Acorn Runtime, organizations can provide a compute endpoint for all developers looking to deploy acorn images from the Acorn CLI, as well as administrative control for the runtime operator.
The Acorn runtime can be deployed on any Kubernetes cluster, whether it is a local development cluster like Docker Desktop, an enterprise platform such as Rancher or OpenShift, a hosted Kubernetes cluster in the cloud, or even micro clusters running at the edge, such as k3s.
TensorFlow is an open source software library for high performance numerical computation. Its flexible architecture allows easy deployment of computation across a variety of platforms (CPUs, GPUs, TPUs), and from desktops to clusters of servers to mobile and edge devices.
Originally developed by researchers and engineers from the Google Brain team, TensorFlow has become popular among developers for machine learning and artificial intelligence projects. It has a broad ecosystem of tools, libraries, and community resources that lets researchers push new experiments in ML/AI and developers build and deploy ML/AI-powered applications.
PyTorch is an open source machine learning library developed by Facebook's AI Research lab (FAIR). It has gained popularity in the research community for its flexibility, ease of use, and dynamic computational graph. PyTorch's design is intuitive, particularly for those familiar with Python programming, making it a preferred choice for both academic research and development in industrial applications.
One of the key strengths of PyTorch is its user-friendly interface. It offers a straightforward platform for building deep learning models, allowing researchers and developers to focus more on the design aspect of their models rather than the technical intricacies of the library. Its dynamic computational graph, where the graph is built at runtime, offers more flexibility and ease for making changes and debugging. This feature is particularly useful for complex models and novel architectures in research.
Redis, which stands for Remote Dictionary Server, is an open source, in-memory data structure store. It is used as a database, cache, and message broker. One of the reasons for Redis's popularity is its versatility. It supports a wide range of data structures, including strings, hashes, lists, and sets.
Redis's in-memory nature allows it to deliver ultra-fast read and write operations. This makes it an appropriate choice for high-performance applications. With numerous contributors from around the world, the Redis community is continually improving and innovating.
PostgreSQL is an open source relational database system. It is known for its robustness, scalability, and full compliance with SQL standards. PostgreSQL supports a broad array of data types, including complex ones like arrays and hstore (for storing key-value pairs).
One of the key features of PostgreSQL is its extensibility. You can define your own data types, operators, and functions. This allows you to tailor the database system to your specific needs. And like Redis, PostgreSQL has a strong community backing it, ensuring its continuous development and improvement.
MongoDB is an open source NoSQL database that provides high performance, high availability, and easy scalability. It works on the concept of collections and documents, which makes it flexible and adaptable to real-world data.
MongoDB offers the ability to handle large amounts of data with diverse structures. It's suitable for dealing with big data applications and real-time analytics. MongoDB's horizontal scaling capability ensures that as your data grows, your database can grow with it.
MariaDB is an open source relational database management system that is a fork of MySQL. It was created by the original developers of MySQL after concerns over its acquisition by Oracle Corporation. MariaDB is designed to maintain high compatibility with MySQL, ensuring a drop-in replacement capability with library binary parity and exact matching with MySQL APIs and commands.
MariaDB has a few features that set it apart from MySQL. It includes a variety of storage engines, including high-performance ones like Aria, ColumnStore, and Spider. It also offers advanced replication for scaling.
Apache Cassandra is an open source distributed database system designed for managing large amounts of data across many commodity servers, providing high availability with no single point of failure. Cassandra offers robust support for clusters spanning multiple datacenters, with asynchronous masterless replication allowing low latency operations for all clients.
Cassandra's strengths revolve around its ability to handle large amounts of data, its resilient nature, and its exceptional performance. Because it's designed for distributed environments, it's highly scalable and can seamlessly grow with your data.
Apache Hadoop is an open-source framework designed for distributed storage and processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. It is particularly known for its ability to handle petabytes and exabytes of data. Hadoop breaks down big data into smaller pieces to be processed in parallel, significantly speeding up data processing.
A key feature of Hadoop is its Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), which allows for high throughput access to application data and is suitable for applications with large data sets. The framework also includes Hadoop YARN, a job scheduling and cluster resource management system, and Hadoop MapReduce, a programming model for large-scale data processing.
Learn more in the detailed guide to Hadoop
Apache Spark is an open source, distributed, general-purpose cluster-computing framework. Initially developed at UC Berkeley's AMPLab, Spark provides an interface for programming entire clusters with implicit data parallelism and fault tolerance.
Spark is known for its speed, ease of use, and general-purpose nature. It can run programs up to 100x faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory, or 10x faster on disk. Spark also supports a wide array of tasks, including SQL queries, streaming data, machine learning, and graph processing.
**Learn more in the detailed guides to:
Apache Kafka is an open source streaming platform that provides real-time data feeds. It's designed to handle data streams from multiple sources and deliver them to multiple consumers. Kafka is known for its high throughput, reliability, and replication capabilities, making it a popular choice for big data and real-time analytics applications.
Kafka's distributed architecture ensures that it can handle massive amounts of data. It also provides fault tolerance, ensuring that data feeds remain up and running even in the event of a failure. Kafka's community is active and enthusiastic, continually contributing to its development and refinement.
Splunk is a software platform widely used for monitoring, searching, analyzing, and visualizing machine-generated data in real time. It processes and indexes the data to make it searchable, and then enables users to create graphs, reports, alerts, dashboards, and visualizations.
Although not entirely open source, Splunk offers a free version with limited functionality, popular in the community for data analysis and operational intelligence. It's particularly valued for its ability to make sense of large amounts of unstructured data, providing insights that can drive operational performance and business results.
Learn more in the detailed guide to Splunk Cloud
Slurm (Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management) is an open source, fault-tolerant, and highly scalable cluster management and job scheduling system for large and small Linux clusters. Slurm is used by many of the world's supercomputers and computer clusters to manage job scheduling.
Slurm prioritizes scalability and portability. It allocates exclusive and/or non-exclusive access to resources (compute nodes) to users for some duration of time. It also provides a framework for starting, executing, and monitoring work on the set of allocated nodes. Finally, it arbitrates contention for resources by managing a queue of pending work.
Learn more in the detailed guide to Slurm
Nextcloud is an open source suite of client-server software for creating and using file hosting services. It's a safe hub for all your data, giving you access to your files wherever you are and the tools to share them with others.
Nextcloud gives you the power to decide where your data is stored, who has access to it, and what happens to it. This commitment to user control distinguishes Nextcloud from other file hosting services.
The Nextcloud community is driven by a shared vision of a decentralized internet where everyone is in control of their own data. Their contributions have made Nextcloud a leading open source file hosting service.
Mastodon is an open source social networking service. It's a decentralized alternative to commercial platforms, avoiding the risks of a single company monopolizing your communication.
Mastodon emphasizes freedom and privacy. It gives you the power to run your own social media platform, away from the algorithms and data mining practices of commercial platforms.
The Mastodon community works to maintain a social network that respects user's rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and control over their own data. Their contributions are shaping Mastodon into a reliable and user-friendly platform that stands as a strong alternative to commercial social media platforms.
Official project page: https://mqtt.org/
MQTT, also known as Message Queuing Telemetry Transport, is a lightweight messaging protocol designed for the Internet of Things (IoT). It was developed by IBM in the late 1990s and has since become one of the most widely used protocols in the IoT space. MQTT enables devices to communicate with each other in a publish-subscribe model, making it useful for scenarios where bandwidth and power are limited.
One of the key advantages of MQTT is its simplicity. The protocol is designed to be lightweight and efficient, making it suitable for resource-constrained devices. It uses a small binary payload and has a minimal overhead, allowing for efficient data transmission over unreliable networks. MQTT also supports a range of quality of service levels, providing flexibility in terms of message delivery guarantees.
Learn more in the detailed guides to:
QUIC, which stands for Quick UDP Internet Connections, is a transport protocol developed by Google. It is designed to provide a secure and efficient alternative to the traditional Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) combination. QUIC aims to reduce latency and improve performance by combining the functionalities of multiple networking layers into a single protocol.
One of the key features of QUIC is its ability to establish connections more quickly than TCP. It achieves this by using a combination of encryption and multiplexing, allowing for parallel streams of data to be transmitted over a single connection. This reduces the number of round trips required to establish a connection and speeds up the delivery of data. Additionally, QUIC includes built-in support for congestion control and error correction, further enhancing its performance.
Learn more in the detailed guide to the QUIC protocol
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