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Posted by Stuart Brocklehurst (Group Communications Director, Amadeus IT Group)
My first exposure to discussions on open systems and Open Source Software came over a decade ago - still relatively recently in the lifetime of their development.
A lobby group had been founded in London to promote their adoption, grand dinners were held with government ministers and IT luminaries speaking.
Working back then for a major bank, I quietly asked my fellow guests from other financial institutions what they thought of all the worthy speeches. "Nice idea," was the consensus, "fine for academics and start-ups....but not for us."
Most at those events, whilst politely applauding the evangelical speakers, found it hard to imagine using "free" software for core banking applications - it seemed to be the stuff of (slightly dull) fairy tales.
How things have changed. As the recent Open for business report makes plain, "open" has gone mainstream.
Over in the financial world, most Wall Street banks now use Open Source, whilst government departments from GCHQ in the UK to the Pentagon and the US Navy depend on it for critical systems.
Within the travel industry, Amadeus has been a pioneer of the move to open systems, regularly using Open Source components in building new functionality and has also donated code into the open space .
Why have so many major IT users adopted the open way?
Well, whilst the notion of "free" software was of course never quite correct,studies have demonstrated that the Total Cost of Ownership of Open Source is lower than with proprietary systems.
But cost is often a secondary issue: far more important is the greater ability to innovate.
It's a cliché to say that companies must innovate or die - but clichés acquire their status for a reason.
Speed of innovation is a crucial competitive differentiator; companies using Open Source have a vast array of components readily available to them and can access the expertise of a wide community of developers who co-operate to solve problems and develop on ideas.
The financial model also enables services to be offered which would never be viable on proprietary systems and - perhaps most important of all - use of Open Source is key to attracting great talent to join and stay in an R&D organisation.
It's been quite a transformation in the last ten or so years. Maybe we should organise another dinner to celebrate.