DEREK RULE The global community of open-source software users and developers provides a constant stream of updates and improvements
Enterprise open-source software company SUSE has released what it calls software-defined storage which supports schools using free open-source software (FOSS), says SUSE client executive Derek Rule.
“The schools can use commodity hardware to build a big storage pool, which is ideal for teaching, as the schools keep lots of curriculum data. The technology fits well because it provides a cheaper way to store bulk data,” he enthuses.
The firm rolled out offline systems for remote schools in Limpopo in partnership with provincial agency Limpopo Connexion.
The Limpopo Connexion agency is also driving the use of FOSS by business and government in the province, in an attempt to bring relevant content to remote areas where there is no access to the Internet or in areas where the bandwidth capacity is a limiting factor.
Further, the technology does not have similar replacement costs that traditional storage has.
“Software-defined storage is very cheap,” he says.
While open-source software is the fastest growing operating system in the world, he explains that the biggest problem is that there are not enough open source skills out there, as education institutions require a suite of software to run on the open-source operating system to support their daily and administrative work.
“However, the reason education institutions want to use FOSS is because of the lower entry price compared to proprietary software. Software licences are not required for open-source software, though education authorities would usually subscribe to technical service providers for software support. They can also rely on in-house skills once they have developed them,” says Rule.
Additionally, he notes that the global community of open-source software users and developers provides a constant stream of updates and improvements, which also mean that the programs used by organisations, such as schools or education institutions, are up to date.
Open-source software programs can easily be adapted to their specific uses and requirements of the organisations and are, therefore, much closer to what they need than typically more general-purpose proprietary software.
Rule states that, while open-source skills are in short supply, coders trained on other operating systems can easily switch to developing code for open-source systems, such as Linux systems.
The adaptability of open-source programs to support specific commercial uses or functions makes them well suited for use in start-ups and skilled developers can also set up their own open-source service firms to provide software and programs for specific clients and/or industries.
“Owing to the low barriers to entry and the accessibility of open-source systems, children at school should be exposed to open-source systems and software development to galvanise their interest in software and development,” he avers.
Meanwhile, Rule further enthuses that education shows great promise to increase the skill sets of students, especially through the use of open-source software, as this offers an approach to addressing the technical problems in providing optimal delivery of online learning.
“This is one reason to invest in developing open-source application software, as it allows education institutions to work out a more cost-effective way of meeting e-learning software challenges,” Rule adds.
He explains that open-source software licences are free and that open-source products are customizable, with features and tools being imported from the open-source community, as well has having a huge collaborative network which minimises the risk of discontinued services.
“Extensive collaboration ensures that software products keep improving. Programmers from different institutions and organisations, along with volunteers, contribute freely to projects,” he concludes, noting that this, in turn, will improve e-learning opportunities and capabilities.