Why is Migration from Proprietary Software to Open-source Software a Viable Alternative?

Feb 08, 2022 | Marketing Mix Modeling
Sayantani Sen
Migration from Proprietary Software

Why is Migration from Proprietary Software to Open-source Software a Viable Alternative?

Why is Migration from Proprietary Software to Open-source Software a Viable Alternative? 1024 683 deepak

Background to the Global Software Market

Software is an integral component of digitalization that enables its users to operate and perform any specific task through a computer/mobile. The global software market is slated to grow by over $250 billion during 2021-2025 at a CAGR of 7.17 % during the same period.

The two major distinctions seen in software are Open-source and proprietary. One of the ways to classify this software is through ownership and licensing. Let us look at the two models separately before we delve into why one is a better alternative for business over the other.

What is Open-source Software?

In 1983, the idea of making source code freely was first conceptualized by Richard Stallman, a programmer in MIT. The GNU project started by Stallman eventually led to the revolutionary of Open-source software trend. This trend catapulted the notion of Open-source collaboration under which developers and programmers voluntarily agreed to share their source code openly without any restrictions.

The group of people working with the software would allow anyone to study and modify the Open-source code for any purposes. The Open-source movement wiped out all the barriers between the developers/programmers and the software vendors encouraging everyone to open collaboration. Finally, “Open-source software” was made official at a strategy session in Palo Alto, California in 1998 to encourage the worldwide acceptance of this new term which itself is reminiscent of academic freedom.

There’s no easy way to determine which is the better software model for your business. Large Pharma companies such as Novartis, Pfizer, and Merck have started making use of Open-source technology. The post-pandemic world has seen an end-to-end, open-source pharmaceutical system that enables patients to access affordable medicines. This means leveraging advances in computing power and other collaborative technologies with alternative approaches to intellectual property. This fosters an alternative open-source medicine and vaccine availability that keeps patient needs on top with universal access. For example, AstraZeneca is having a conversation around how it’s embracing data science and AI using Open source platforms like Python and R across the organization while they continue to push the boundaries of science to deliver life-changing medicines.

Examples for Open-source software are :-

  • Python
  • R programming
  • Ubuntu
  • Firefox

These are stored in a public repository with anyone, anywhere accessing these codes independently or even contributing improvements to its design and functionality. Most of this software usually comes with a distribution license. Each of these licenses helps define terms for developers to use, modify and study alongside distribute software. Depending on the license terms, the software can experience modifications in code that may, or may not be available for free use.

What is Proprietary Software?

Proprietary software refers to the type of software that is copyrighted and licensed in terms of its usage. The source code of this type of software can only be modified or managed by the individual or organization who created it. The owner or publisher of the software holds the intellectual property rights of the source code exclusively. Managed by a closed team of developers who developed it proprietary software also protect the source code making it inflexible with limited innovation with many restrictions on use.

Proprietary software is usually paid. That is, users will have to pay for its license and only then it can be used. There may be trial version of a certain period to explore the functionality. The company that developed the software gives a valid and authenticated license to the users who use this software. There are license restrictions on users for the number off installations of software into computers, restrictions on sharing of software universally over the Internet, the time period up to which the software can operate to the number of features that can be allowed to use. Some common forms of proprietary software are SAS, SPSS, Minitab.

Why opt for Open-source software?

The Open-source concept can be advantageous for software development in many companies. Because of its open nature, it becomes easy for contributors to add new features, and fix bugs. This makes it a very strong system that can run for a long term and is adaptive to all kinds of needs. All these advantages come at free of cost and this is a big comfort to large companies who pays huge money for proprietary software counterparts.

Developing an Open-source software strategy has become critical task for several reasons. Open-source software developers, individually or collectively, look for the optimal solutions to technological problems, which makes the software they create reliable, secure – and free. Because of their continuous efforts, the software becomes better over time. Several foundations, such as the Linux Foundation, which supports Open-source across several technology domains, the Apache Software Foundation, and the Eclipse Foundation, facilitate the process. In partnership with IT giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and SAP, as well as hardware manufacturers such as Cisco, Intel, and Tesla, they set standards.

According to Gartner, majority of the IT companies across the world use Open-source software (OSS) for their critical IT needs. Comparing the buy vs. build option, many companies prefer open-source solutions as an alternative. From IT infrastructure upgrade, application development to DevOps, Open-source Technology is also planted deeply within private enterprise third-party technologies.

What Enterprise Open Source is being used for

What Enterprise Open Source Is Being Used For


OSS provides source code and is free of copyright so that anyone can modify the software. This enables developer to contribute to the development of the software and open-source community. But for some issues, support might not be readily available since they don’t have any official support team to assist.

Proprietary software is a private enterprise development, and the source code is only accessible to the vendor/company who have the copy rights to it. Expensive consultant teams are necessary for integration and extensions.


In Open-source, any user with the required technical knowledge can add or modify additional functionalities to the program’s source code to make it work better, it allows better sustainability of the software as discrepancies in the software can be rectified and corrected repeatedly. But this also poses a threat in terms of privacy and data leak, and this can be avoided by using Standard and “Trusted” code resources.

Proprietary software also offers a better security since it is controlled by trusted publishers or organizations and often it offers enhanced security with security updates.


Unlike open source, proprietary software is typically designed keeping in mind a limited group of end users with limited skills. They target a small circle of end users unlike projects accomplished within Open-source communities. Only users from programming community will try to modify source code.

In the pharma and life sciences industry, many worry over the terms usage of open-source software. A common misconception is that the software is not sourced from a trusted company, so it could pose a potential threat”. Open-source does not mean it is any less capable or reliable than proprietary counterparts, or that the group designing the software lacks the proper design principles and methodology critical to creating quality software. In fact, there are great benefits to releasing source code to the community which consumes that software – as that community often identifies bugs and suggests effective solutions. Although using Open-source software in a regulated environment is more challenging, it is not prohibitive.

Today, more and more corporations are looking to Community Open-source or Enterprise Open- source. Community-based Open-source generally provides basic, core features at no license fee. Enterprise Open-source comes with additional high-performing enterprise features under some license cost. Enterprise Open-source is expected to rise from 36% to 44% over the next two years. According to a survey conducted by RedHat, 86% respondents reveal that Enterprise Open Source is used by the most innovative companies.

The survey conducted by Red Hat shows how enterprise Open-source and Open-source software are important. It’s about organizations and individuals coming together to collectively invent the future. Community-based Open-source is not increasing as rapidly as Enterprise Open source as per Red Hat data, but it is on an upward trajectory – and proprietary software clearly isn’t scoring high.

Lower Operating Cost

The freedom to run the open-source software on multiple machines can significantly alter costs for enterprises in pharma. The lower Total Cost of Ownership or TCO can be one of the most important advantages of Open-source solutions. Opting for proprietary software can be expensive in this regard as it is developed for single purpose applications that are separately packaged. The costs also mount for development teams when they must pay for licenses and maintenance. The proprietary software also has a low level of customization and adaptability in comparison to Open-source software thereby not always a correct fit for all types of business requirements.

Steps to Migrate to Open-source

Migration to Open-source software from a totally different platform is an arduous task. Companies that don’t use Open-source might not have enough experience in implementation or managing. Likewise, it can be migrated through external vendors but there might be an issue of important/sensitive data being accessed. From “Identifying the right technology” to “Deploying the new version” involves lot of steps and hurdles to be crossed. However, following a strong framework for the migration with the following steps can mitigate a lot of the risks involved with migration:

  1. Identifying the Right Technology
  2. Simplify your Existing Code Base
  3. Create Self-contained Modules
  4. Separate Internal Code from External Dependencies
  5. Code Refactoring
  6. Update and List External Dependencies
  7. Provide Documentation and Examples
  8. Test Stand-alone Deployments on a Fresh Environment

Follow our page for the next blog on the framework for migrating from proprietary to Open-source software. Learn about the best practices and key risks to look out for.


Open-source software is a crowded space, filled with amazing technologies and brilliant use cases accomplishing amazing things. Open-source does not seek to overlap with works that is already done. The pharmaceutical community still covers a wide domain of problems, so to address our concerns, we need to ask the right questions – and that is one benefit that Open-source can provide. By asking the right questions, we can help facilitate getting the necessary answers to leverage the value of Open-source technology within our organizations. With answers in hand, we can further demonstrate use cases and provide examples within the industry, helping our organizations to adopt this technology faster.


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February 15, 2017

Openlogic Proprietary vs Open Source Software Openlogic.com https://www.openlogic.com/blog/proprietary-vs-open-source
August 29, 2019

Difference Between.net Difference Between Open Source and Proprietary Software qDifferencebetween.net 2022

Cindy Hoots, Heather Stewart, Jim Weatherall Embracing the Ethics of Data and AI,
Astrazeneca.com November 9, 2020

Astrazeneca Data Science and Artificial Intelligence: Unlocking new science insights
Astrazeneca.com 2022

HowWow! How to Migrate to Open Source Software?
Lifashionist.com December 12, 2021

Ayo Oladele Choosing the Right Tech Stack for Your Project: Basic Principles velvetech.com
December 3, 2021

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