Open platforms and the value of sharing
Sharing is caring. You may have heard some version of this statement to encourage sharing with others for most of your life. And sharing is now so pervasive that a well-known American fast-food chain has recently aired commercials speaking out against rampant oversharing. But, contrary to what those advertisements may say, sharing is and always has been vital.
Of course, in the business world sharing can be a double-edged sword. In some cases, such as with trade secrets, oversharing can lead to loss of competitive advantage. Yet, what was once thought to be good about sharing is also true, and nothing exemplifies the positive outcomes of sharing in a business environment quite like open source.
Open source enables ideas and work to be examined, transformed, built upon and generally enhanced through collaborative scrutiny. The capability for multiple vendors to build on this shared open source foundation means that switching between tools without losing the work or without losing the training that went into adopting the previous solution is easier. Therefore, the threat of lock in with a single vendor is significantly reduced.
For this reason, organizations are seeking open and unified analytics platforms, particularly those incorporating the open source technologies of Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark. But what differentiates an open and unified platform? The differentiation comes down to three elements: inclusion, community and contribution.
The basic requirement for an open platform is that open source technologies are involved. That requirement seems pretty simple, but different varieties of inclusion exist for open source technologies. For example, offering a rich, complimentary open source technology distribution that is built to communal standards is a good starting point for a platform. On the other hand, building premium offerings on an open source base can add value in the form of additional functionality to meet special business needs.
Yet, merely including open source technologies is not enough to define an analytics platform as truly open. Involvement in an open source community, such as the Open Data Platform (ODP) initiative, is also important. The ODP website describes itself as “a shared industry effort focused on promoting and advancing the state of Apache Hadoop and Big Data technologies for the enterprise.” The initiative aims to help resolve problems such as fragmented and duplicated efforts and also to accelerate many use cases by running on a common platform. Collaboration with groups such as the ODP indicates a deep dedication to an open environment.
Of course, taking an active role in driving the formation and direction of open source communities is also important. Being a founding member of such a community shows active engagement, but there are other ways to take an active role as well. Investment in building spaces that serve as a hub for the community of data scientists and developers to collaborate and innovate around open source technologies indicates a deep commitment. It shows an increased level of involvement and initiative beyond what might be expected.
Once community involvement is established, the third element of a commitment to openness is contribution to the open source community. Of course, contributions will differ, but a few good examples do exist. One way to contribute is to open source other technologies related to the primary open source technology or collaborate with others to advance surrounding open source technologies. These actions help establish a progression of open source improvement for the future.
Another option for contributing is educating members of the community. Many members may need to be introduced to a new technology or its more advanced features, thus making education vital within open source communities. When a company with an open platform engages in these types of activities, it demonstrates that it sees value in the open source technology and will work to drive its success.
When an analytics platform—and the company behind it—excels at inclusion, community and contribution, it can be labeled truly open in every sense of the word. At that point, open source technologies aren’t just something halfheartedly thrown onto the platform, real thought has gone into what that technology means for the company and its clients.
Learn more by taking a look at an example of a thoughtful approach to openness demonstrated by one open and unified platform.