C-level briefing: With less support available for those who are first to adopt, it could be better to follow and learn from the mistakes of others.
Being a leader isn’t an easy job, with the path ahead often unclear and full of pitfalls, which is why many businesses opt to follow the examples set by others when it comes to choosing new technologies.
For businesses that tie themselves to a vendor there is typically large amounts of support available, for a price, but for businesses that go down the open source route that is not always the case.
Amadeus, the global technology travel provider, decided to ditch its mainframes and move to an open source model with technologies such as OpenShift Enterprise from Red Hat, which it used to build its own cloud platform, Amadeus Cloud Services.
Olaf Schnapauff, CTO, Amadeus told CBR that moving to an open source model has had a massive impact on how the company works, as well as giving them a host of beneifts from the collaborative work sharing ideas and experiences with other open source companies.
However, if the business wants to stay ahead of the competition then it needs to lead, but leading the field also brings with it the challenge of unchartered territory.
Schnapauff, said: "If you hit mainstream mission critical production, if the heart of the travel industry is moving onto that stack, then there a lot of questions that needs answering that no one has answered so far, because we at the forefront."
So when it comes to being at the forefront of adopting new technologies, open source can throw up some challenges. Although the company used peers in the industry and partners to help with technology problems, it was not always easy.
The company moved from mainframes, which the CTO described as: "very heavy, relatively slow, very centralised and today the world is not centralised anymore."
Now the company is able to deliver its solutions where they are being consumed, globally and in a flexible model.
The Amadeus cloud services extensively uses OpenShift and all of the components in the upper layer of the stack, where the applications live and are managed, monitored, and maintained, is kept independent of the underlying Infrastructure-as-a-Service.
The CTO said: "The point of doing this is so we have complete flexibility in where it runs, it might run on our own private cloud, because of data protection regulation which is based on OpenStack.
"It might run on Google or Amazon Web Services, because sometimes our customers are on those platforms and they would like to consume parts of our services, not everything but part, right there where they are and needs it."
This flexibility is a direct result of the open source model that it is following but there are challenges, like assuring security and compliance within the business that open source meets requirements.
"Part of the problem is that there is not a single vendor for commercial support covering every component, although much of it is.
"If you add up all the bits and pieces you use in an open source stack, all the surrounding elements, and you try to buy support subscription for everything then essentially you end up with a bill bigger than a mainframe operation including the hardware," he said.
To get around this problem the CTO advised that choices still need to be made around partnering with some companies and bundling some of the technologies together in order to reduce the cost.
Flexibility is key for what Amadeus is doing, whether it is better serving its customers or finding the best way to analyse data, some of which it does in the cloud but mainly it does this on-premise.
Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst said that being able to offer the ability to contribute to open source projects is an important factor in being able to hire the best staff, this is something that the CTO agrees with.
"It’s a matter of talent because people want to work in a certain way, young talented developers want to work in a certain way, so do system admins.
"Try to pitch in front of a college why don’t you become our mainframe developer, why don’t you write code the old way and the number of CVs you will collect is limited," said Schnapauff.
So in essence, open source has become a necessity for the business in being able to offer the kinds of services it wants to on a global scale, and in being able to hire the right talent that can help it to stay ahead of competition.