Unlocking Infrastructure Sovereignty: Harnessing the Power of Open Source Solutions for Business Flexibility and Cost-Effectiveness
The growing dependence on Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions has raised concerns about vendor lock-in and its consequences for businesses. In a recent discussion hosted by experts from Klara Inc. and Bell Technology Solutions, the focus was on infrastructure sovereignty and the advantages of adopting open source solutions.
The Emergence of SaaS and Vendor Lock-In
Software as a Service (SaaS) and recurring revenue models have become prevalent, often leading to vendor lock-in. This constrains businesses from seamlessly transitioning to alternative solutions, trapping them and keeping them reliant on their vendors. Regaining (or simply maintaining) infrastructure sovereignty protects freedom of choice, which in turn eliminates the restrictions of vendor lock-in.
Advantages of Open Source Infrastructure
Open source infrastructure offers numerous benefits over proprietary software, such as:
- Access to the source code for customization and innovation
- The ability to audit for security vulnerabilities
- Flexibility and control over upgrades
- Improved interoperability and avoiding the “walled garden”
Flexibility and Support in Open Source Solutions
In the proprietary software world, third party support generally has limits imposed by lack of access to the source code, whereas open source software can be fully supported by third party vendors.
This approach allows businesses to select the best support options and ensures they have multiple vendors to depend on if necessary. Open source infrastructure also provides greater control, flexibility, and adaptability, enabling businesses to tackle challenges in the world of SaaS offerings.
With proprietary solutions, businesses are often limited in their ability to customize and modify the software to meet their specific needs—the business can configure the software, but cannot generally modify it. In contrast, open source software can be expanded and tailored to meet a business’s unique requirements when simple configuration isn’t sufficient.
This greater control and flexibility enables businesses to optimize their infrastructure and replace or supplement SaaS offerings to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance the user experience.
Open source infrastructure provides adaptability, allowing businesses to rapidly react to shifting market demands and new technologies. Developed by an extensive community, open source software fosters continuous improvement through collaboration. Businesses can capitalize on this adaptability for innovation, competitive edge, and quick responses to trends and customer needs. The flexibility and customizability of open source solutions encourages and enables experimentation, integration, and development of unique solutions, creating new opportunities for growth, differentiation, and market disruption.
Custom Appliances and Compliance
Leveraging open source technologies to develop custom appliances can result in more cost-effective network security and storage solutions. While compliance challenges may arise when using open source infrastructure, these issues do not necessarily disappear when using vendor services. It is important to note that open source software adapts to accommodate compliance requirements as a critical mass of users form a strong community around the software.
Transitioning Away from Vendor Lock-In
The process of migrating away from vendor lock-in can be daunting—emphasizing the importance of timing and identifying the right moment to make the switch are key to a successful migration. To prepare for this eventuality, it is suggested to construct an infrastructure around vendor solutions that can fail over at any point, allowing businesses to transition to open source alternatives without losing critical data or functionality.
To reduce the impact of moving away from vendor lock-in, one viable approach is to implement a phased transition. Rather than making a sudden switch, businesses can gradually introduce open source solutions into their existing infrastructure, allowing employees to become familiar with the new software and the way it works. A phased transition can help to minimize disruption and ensure that the new solution is properly integrated into existing workflows, as well as helping to identify any potential issues early on and address them before they become more significant problems.
Another crucial factor to consider when transitioning away from vendor lock-in is the level of training required for employees to adapt to the new software. This is particularly important for mission-critical software that is used regularly by employees.
Businesses must ensure that their employees have the necessary skills and training to use the new software effectively. Investing in training programs and offering support to employees during the transition can help to minimize the impact on productivity and ensure that the transition is a success.
Ultimately, transitioning away from vendor lock-in requires careful planning and execution to ensure that businesses can fully realize the benefits of open-source software while minimizing any potential risks.
ZFS: An Open Source Storage Solution
ZFS, an open source storage solution, offers data mobility and ease of access, which is particularly useful for iterative testing during migrations. It enables cloning and snapshotting to test upgrades or migrations on a copy of the production system without consuming additional space, ensuring a smooth and confident migration process while minimizing risks. ZFS also streamlines migrating data between clouds through incremental replication.
Support and Freedom in Open Source Infrastructure
The idea that proper support is exclusively available from vendors rather than open source solutions is outdated. Open source infrastructure has matured, offering options for multiple vendors and improved support quality. This freedom is a crucial advantage of using open source solutions like ZFS.
Historically, proprietary software vendors have had a monopoly on support services, with customers being required to pay a hefty price for any additional support. However, with the rise of open source software, the concept of support has been transformed.
The open source community provides an excellent platform for individuals and organizations to collaborate and share knowledge. They often participate in forums, chat rooms, and mailing lists, helping each other resolve issues and provide support. This open source support system has created a robust and diverse network of support professionals, who can help users solve their problems quickly and efficiently.
Open source infrastructure provides a sense of freedom that proprietary software simply cannot. With open source solutions, users can customize their software to fit their specific needs, rather than being restricted to pre-defined options. This freedom extends to the choice of vendors and support services, allowing users to select the service provider that best fits their business requirements.
Open source software is developed by a large and diverse community of developers, who are passionate about creating software that is functional, efficient, and flexible. This community works together to provide users with reliable, robust, and secure software solutions, while maintaining the freedom to adapt and modify the software as needed.
Cost Reduction Through Owned Infrastructure
The benefits of transitioning from cloud services to owned infrastructure for cost reduction can result in a 4x cost savings. Although labor can be a significant expense, companies already employing engineers might find it more cost-effective to delegate some tasks to their infrastructure.
Collaborating with partners like Klara Inc. can enhance efficiency by providing backup and expertise in high-level infrastructure. Two recent, relevant examples include Ahrefs and Hey.com, both found significant savings from moving their base workloads back in-house. In a recent article, Efim Mirochnik who oversees Data Center Operations at Ahrefs’ wrote:
“Ahrefs has saved ~USD 400 million by ensuring its infrastructure is NOT 100% in the IaaS cloud during the last 2½ years. This figure is growing bigger, as currently we are starting another massive colocation data center with new hardware.
While Ahrefs uses AWS benefits for hosting our frontend in different parts of the world, the vast majority of Ahrefs’ infrastructure iceberg hides in the colocation with owned hardware. Ahrefs wouldn’t be profitable, or even exist, if our products were 100% on AWS.”
Hey.com is another prime example of transitioning from cloud services to owned infrastructure to save money. David Heinemeier Hansson, Hey’s CTO recently wrote about how he estimates that Hey stands to save around $7 million in server expenses over five years. Hey made this move possible by building its own tools and using open source infrastructure which offers greater control, flexibility, and adaptability.
The company’s plan involves investing around $600,000 in hardware to add approximately 2,000 vCPU per data center. Additionally, they currently spend about $60,000 per month on eight dedicated racks through Deft. This amounts to a total cost of $840,000 per year for bandwidth, power, and hardware, amortized over a five-year period.
In comparison, their cloud expenses amounted to $2.3 million in 2022 alone. By transitioning to their own hardware, they expect to benefit from faster and more capable hardware, including many more cores and cheaper NVMe storage. Additionally, this hardware investment offers them ample room to expand at a low cost.
This transition to their own infrastructure is expected to result in significant savings of approximately $1.5 million annually. Given these cost savings, the company strongly recommends that mid-sized SaaS businesses and larger should consider benchmarking their rental bill for cloud servers against investing in their hardware.
With careful planning and execution, businesses can achieve greater control, flexibility, and adaptability while realizing substantial cost savings. As the company continues their transition to their infrastructure, they will share their lessons learned and their tooling to support others in making the switch.
Email Server Management
There are challenges and benefits of managing email servers. For example, operating your own email server is not recommended due to various issues such as IP reputation and increasingly hostile spam filtering at major providers like Google and Microsoft. However, leveraging open source technologies to build an infrastructure around email servers can provide businesses with greater flexibility and reduce the costs associated with compliance archiving and storage.
While managing an email server can be daunting, especially for small businesses with limited resources, there are notable advantages to doing so. By utilizing open source software, businesses can customize their email infrastructure to suit their specific requirements, enhancing the efficiency and security of their email communications. Open source technologies also offer better control and enable businesses to comply with data protection regulations more effectively.
Advantages of Open Source Infrastructure for Testing and Migration
The advantages of open source infrastructure in terms of:
- Testing backup strategies
- Migrating complex systems
- Handling service downtimes
are considerations. The ability to swiftly restore and run services in different environments without worrying about licenses is extremely valuable for businesses.
Quantitative and Qualitative Business Benefits of Open Source Solutions
Open source solutions have gained significant traction in the business world, offering organizations a powerful alternative to proprietary software. These solutions provide businesses with both quantitative and qualitative benefits, enabling them to maximize their potential while minimizing costs.
Quantitatively, open source solutions often lead to reduced total cost of ownership, more efficient resource allocation, and increased flexibility in technology choices.
Qualitatively, businesses benefit from enhanced collaboration, improved innovation, and greater transparency, all while sharing the cost of maintenance with others who use the same software.
Embracing open source solutions not only empowers organizations to stay competitive in the ever-evolving digital landscape but also fosters a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement that can yield long-term success.
Klara Inc. is dedicated to helping businesses embrace these benefits by providing tailored open source solutions and expert guidance. Our team works closely with clients to understand their unique needs and challenges, ensuring that the implementation of open source solutions is seamless and optimized for success.
Conclusion: An Open Source Path Forward
Open source solutions offer businesses a path forward to achieve infrastructure sovereignty, enhanced flexibility, and cost-effective operations. By leveraging open source technologies, companies can avoid the pitfalls of vendor lock-in, create custom solutions, reduce costs, and access a wider variety of support resources tailored to their specific needs. Klara’s support empowers businesses to harness the power of open source software, driving efficiency and promoting transparency. With Klara’s expert guidance, businesses can unlock unprecedented potential for growth and innovation.