Written by Pamod Sylvester, Lead Solutions Engineer, WSO2
The 2020 analysis report states 46% of manufacturing firms and 46% of retail/wholesale industries are severely affected by COVID-19 Pandemic. Subsequently these segments are compelled to cut down on their expenditure. Simultaneously the pandemic is shifting the global market and its demands. According to the McKinsey report, 80% of the B2B decisions makers prefer remote interaction or digital self service over physical presence. Dynamics of the market is changing. Expenditure control while maintaining agility is vital for every business. Early adaptation to open source technology can be a preliminary step for an organisation. Open source products do not entail a license fee and it’s community driven culture allows swift adaptation to changes. In addition to controlling the cost and maintaining flexibility, rapid changes in both market and culture i.e remote connectivity over physical presence will demand for self driven (automated), scalable and secure systems.
Beating Recession With Open Source Technology
Economic Benefits & Control
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, middleware i.e API Gateways, Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) etc are quite commonly used by the industries affected by the pandemic such as manufacturing and retail. These products might drain a large fraction of the budget allocated for IT. According to the 2020 ERP report an average budget of 9000$ per user is spent on ERP software, around $750K in total would be spent on an ERP by a mid-sized business. Open source equivalents on the other hand have zero liabilities i.e license fees, attached to the product. One might argue the cost for development, maintenance etc that will still incur for open source products. Intention is to highlight the level of control open source provides over proprietary and not perform a cost comparison between them i.e no liabilities to pay an annual license fee for the product, during recession the system could still function without sunsetting. Nevertheless It’s always possible to procrastinate the additional expenditure open source incurs and still have the system functioning. Whereas it’s not an option with its adversary.
Remote Connectivity with Cloud & Open Source
Importance of remote connectivity is vivid and was confirmed by the McKinsey report. As a result cloud based solutions have caught traction. These solutions can be interpreted as Software as a Service (SaaS) or in the context of open source, binary distributions can be hosted on any given environment. Cloud hosting such as Azure, AWS are commonly used. Following is an evaluation of both the aforementioned approaches.
|Solutions||Control & Security||Vendor Lock-In||Maintenance||Deployment Options|
|SaaS||Typically packaged as tenants. Resources might be shared between multiple entities, and the provider will have access to all data flowing through the system and any sensitive information persisted.||Proprietary configurations would be less portable. If open standard’s aren’t used for developed artifacts, migrating to another system will be non trivial. Hence will be vendor locked in.||Vendors will maintain both hardware and software.||Very limited number of vendors support on-premise, hybrid, multi cloud deployments.|
|OpenSourceBinary (hosted in cloud)||Have more control over the hardware and provide the flexibility to choose the infrastructure the software should run.||Most commonly built based on Open standards. More portable and no vendo locking.||Orgs could maintain the deployment themselves with an in house team. Most of popular Open Source products have vendors affiliated who provide support, managed services and consultancy for a subscription.||Flexible, commonly support on-premise, hybrid, multi cloud deployment models.|
Openness & Flexibility
Open source products are community driven. Hence it’s design and implementation (code) is publicly available. This allows organizations who use the product to be first class citizens of it. Community driven culture of open source provides capability for organizations to contribute to the code base and influence into the road map of the product, wide community adaptation of the product ensures agility whereas new features necessary to face the competitive market swiftly gets reflected in the product. These factors will be beneficial to fight the changing dynamics of the market.
Self Driven, Scalable and Secure Systems
COVID has transformed the culture of an organization. Employees are mostly working from home. Variable dynamics of nature has given precedence to businesses which are fully automated and independent of excessive human interaction. Having boundaries to find a workforce specialized in a particular technology or programming language could come as a disadvantage. At the same time many stakeholders will interact with the system remotely via services. Having pre allocated resources to sustain the peak load would not be cost effective and would be a waste of resources. Hence it would be important to have auto scalable (which will scale on demand), polyglot, fully automated solutions. Application containerization and related container orchestration engines provide a polyglot programming platform with embedded support for auto scaling and zero downtime. Which would potentially solve the aforementioned challenges.
BlockChain Based Design
Several entities get involved in the supply chain process i.e handle logistics, manufacturing, retailers. Supply chain management software conventionally allows the stakeholders to share information via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI based systems allow sharing of information in timely batches. Timely batches will cause delays i.e if a shipment goes missing, it’ll take a considerable amount of time for the necessary parties to be informed of the delay. Late change of plans will potentially have an adverse economic impact. Given the majority of the stakeholders prefer to remotely get involved with the process, it’ll challenge the organizations to provide a platform that would be timely (real time) and secure which will give assurance to its stakeholders of authenticity.
BlockChain Based Systems could be a suitable candidate due to the following factors,
- Distributed ledger allows each stakeholder to keep a copy. Avoid single point of failure
- Secure transactions among each participant (you can’t alter the transactions and tamper)
- Transactions are immutable and digitally signed, stakeholders could share the location and ownership of their material
- Each stakeholder could share these information with other stakeholders, in the event of a defect in the product the source of the problem could be identified quickly – improves efficiency to handle product recalls.
- Gives more confidence to the customer since identifying fraud and counter fitting is easier with this technology. Helps make business decisions sooner.
- Tracking helps identify perishable goods i.e food and helps reduce waste. Can implement more efficient cost saving measures.
- Smart Contracts – different parties could agree to the terms and conditions bill of lading and charter party agreement signing will be a part of the software.
Expenditure control, agility, remoteness, scalability, automation and security becomes vital for every organization. Especially during COVID-19 pandemic. Adapting to cloud based open source technologies will provide both cost benefits and flexibility to meet those demands. Containerization and adaptation of block chain based technologies further allows the corporate to meet the challenges COVID-19 brings while facing competition.