On April 18th, 2019 Mozilla announced Mozilla WebThings. WebThings is an open source platform aimed at helping consumers connect and monitor IoT devices, presumably in their homes. However, MachNation believes these types of open source platforms have applicability in both enterprise and consumer environments. WebThings was previously called “Project Things,” which is an implementation of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web of Things Standard.
MachNation has discussed the value of an open source IoT platform to enterprises in several past research documents including
- Whitepaper: Benefits of an open-source approach to IoT Application Enablement
- SiteWhere open source IoT platform supports smart metering in Turin, Italy
- Canonical’s Ubuntu Core and Snaps: a Q&A article
- 2016 IoT Application Enablement ScoreCard
There are five benefits of selecting an open-source AEP to satisfy middleware requirements of an IoT solution.
Benefit 1: Richness of the ecosystem
Open-source projects tend to have more success gaining market traction and adoption than commercial systems, because of the nature of the open-source ecosystem. Developers and systems integrators form a large network of experts that know how to assemble open-source technologies into solutions. Software communities, comprised of large numbers of volunteers, often contribute to the ecosystem often for personal reasons, or because they have reaped the benefits of the community in the past.
Benefit #2: Best-in-class security
Open-source components are revered for their security characteristics. Security auditing in the open-source model is very strong. The open-source model enables developers, quality assurance teams and independent security researchers to conduct security audit and testing at multiple levels including source code, system and system of systems. This enables a deep and complete analysis of potential vulnerabilities and provides the greatest level of transparency from a security standpoint.
Benefit #3: Unrivaled flexibility
Open-source platforms provide enterprises with the flexibility to deploy software that meets business needs. Unlike commercial products which have to tailor to many interests, open-source software has no commercial agenda. In many cases, core changes to functionality of a commercial product are simply not feasible without engaging the vendor. Thus, commercial solutions require that customers align themselves with the priorities of the vendor. In the cases where a vendor is unwilling to modify a product, the enterprise has no choice but to rely on costly professional services.
Benefit #4: Ability to future-proof
By their very nature, open-source platforms provide strong mechanisms for future-proofing middleware to adapt to changing requirements and market needs. First, open-source AEP solutions are fairly easy to maintain if there is disruption in the community. Open-source AEPs are community maintained and a third-party can take over an AEP deployment project or ongoing management at virtually anytime. Among commercial software stacks, it is entirely common for platform vendors to come and go. The consolidation within the IoT space suggests that many platform vendors that exist today are unlikely to be around 3-5 years from now as they will either cease to exist or be acquired by a large player that may or may not maintain the same product development priorities.
Benefit #5: Favorable financials
While there is much debate on total cost of ownership (TCO) of open versus commercial software, open-source software has no upfront software costs or recurring upgrade costs. As a result of the advantageous and highly scalable pricing model, some of the world’s largest technology companies base their core business technologies on open-source software.
MachNation continues to research the value of an open source IoT AEP. For more information, please contact us.