Open Source Software in Financial Services

What does Open Source look like in 2015?
Open source has evolved significantly since the early Linux days, having transitioned to a more professional approach. Gone are the days when the model consisted of amateur software enthusiasts spending their evenings coding.

Engineers working for technology companies now develop the majority of the popular, large scale OSS solutions available. The explanation behind the shift in approach embraced by most vendors is the universally adopted Freemium model, where the OSS version is provided free of charge and premium features incur costs.

The .com companies (Facebook, Google, and Yahoo) were the first generation to change the face of OSS by open sourcing large-scale frameworks such as Cassandra or Hadoop. These OSS products were developed and tested at an unprecedented scale - often greater than that required within FS. Other players in the internet industry were quick to follow suit, often in conjunction with cloud technologies, leveraging the appealing combination of large scale on-demand infrastructure and middleware’s running at scale.

As a direct result of this increase in adoption, an ecosystem of wealthy companies funded by Venture Capital (VC) developed around these technologies. Docker, one of the success stories of 2014, raised $40M in funding, while Cloudera and DataStax managed £165M and £160M respectively. The amount of money invested in OSS is now colossal, with cumulative VC funding for Hadoop and NoSQL vendors breaking through the $1bn barrier in 2013 these figures outweigh the average bank’s ability to invest in pure technology!

With organised contributions to OSS, overall quality has vastly improved, and there are now virtually no differences between an OSS solution and a commercially packaged one. However, OSS enjoys one key advantage: it is more transparent since everything is visible to the user. There are open, online communities involved with the products, making it easy to understand common issues and judge the level of activity around a product without having to take a vendor’s word for it. Traditional brick and mortar technology companies are struggling to respond. The most forward thinking ones (e.g. VMWare) have announced new projects and contributions to Open Source, such as open sourcing of solutions previously licensed under a commercial model.

Cost efficiency is becoming the priority in FS, and OSS offers an alternative model to “consuming” software. Although not free as the name suggests, it is generally cheaper, and the option of using a free version before purchasing offers the chance to “try before you buy.”

It’s also possible to develop skills within an organisation, leveraging all the publically available material. From a skills perspective, there is now greater liquidity across industries for solutions which were once more vertically aligned - e.g. Big Data has now matured in the start-up, telco and consumer space.

Finally, most of these OSS solutions have been built with public cloud in mind. They are designed to be deployed across hybrid on-premise/public cloud environments, guard against failure and support dynamic scaling. As public cloud continues its expansion within FS, it will become increasingly critical to leverage solutions designed for it, rather than legacy vendor middleware.

Why is banking opening up to OSS now ?
The latest key trends in technology are all fuelled by Open Source Technology. This is where innovation happens and it’s impossible to ignore it now.• Big Data: First Hadoop, and now all other NoSQL solutions.• Cloud: Docker is about to revolutionise the cloud world and offer a standard cross-vendor container  technology which Microsoft and Amazon have already embraced• New Front End technologies: the two emblematic frameworks, AngularJS & Node.JS, are Open Source

Whats next?
The FS community has tiptoed around these solutions for the last few years, adopting some as direct alternatives to vendor solutions. Clients are now leveraging the new possibilities of these Open Source platforms, going beyond the original use case and re-visiting their architectures. Traditional database based data warehouses are being replaced by Big Data solutions and are moving towards real-time; NoSQL database are being used to scale-out Risk Systems through hybrid on premise/public cloud deployments. This is the beginning of an era of innovation in FS… fuelled by Open Source technologies!

Key points
• The advent of large-scale frameworks led to massive investment in OSS.• OSS solutions became widely used thanks to improvements in quality• The expansion of public cloud continues to increase demand for OSS.

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