The advantages of free software (FOS) are the security and safety of the IT infrastructure, high quality of the program code, a wide choice of hardware platforms, the ability to quickly adapt to current business needs, and open formats.
The transition to open source software is a global trend. Abroad, this process has been going on for more than one year and is becoming widespread. Based on a survey of 70,000 developers on Stack Overflow, in 2022, about 40% of specialists used Linux as the main OS. For comparison, in 2018 this figure was just over 23%.
Among the well-known free programs, it is worth mentioning the widespread Apache web server, the GNU / Linux OS, the LibreOffice.org office suite, the Mozilla Firefox browser, and the FreeBSD operating system. Google and Yandex work on open source software.
The process of migration to free software in our country is not going as fast as it could go. Companies are interested in not depending on foreign vendors in order to transfer their IT infrastructures to secure and reliable platforms. But, firstly, not everyone has the right idea about free software products, they don’t know who creates them, who maintains them and how, and therefore they don’t trust them. Secondly, many are accustomed to solving problems as they come, and are in no hurry to abandon proprietary solutions. However, slowness can result in big losses.
Safe transition to free software
Sometimes customers have concerns that migration to open source software will be long and complicated, since the product does not have a single owner, different teams are involved in its development. It is important to note here that safe and a seamless transition to open source software is possible only if there is a vendorresponsible for the compatibility and high-quality operation of various solutions as part of a single system. An example of such a vendor is a company “Basalt SPO”developer of OS of the Viola family.
The security of Basalt SPO products is ensured primarily by the fact that the developers of the team, in the process of creating and finalizing programs, literally dissect the code, study it for vulnerabilities and possible “bookmarks”. In addition, the vendor has joined the Agreement on the Formation Consortium of Members to Support the Linux Kernel Security Technology Research Center.
The level of technical support also matches: it is provided by highly qualified specialists, and the vendor strives to minimize the response time to critical incidents.
What types of software exist and what licenses govern their use?
Proprietary software (also non-free software, from the English word proprietary – private, or, as they say in our country – proprietary). The name speaks for itself. The right holder has a monopoly control over copying, modification and distribution of the software. These products and their support cost money, but there are exceptions where the software is distributed and/or supported for free.
open source (from English Open source software). The source code of the programs is available for viewing, and in some cases, if agreed, for modification. This means that anyone can not only use the already written code for their own purposes, but also participate in the development or improvement of products. As a rule, open source software is distributed free of charge, but nothing prohibits copyright holders from selling software.
free software (from the English Free Software Definition). It is often confused with open or free products. Strictly speaking, a program is considered free software if it meets the following principles, formulated in the 1980s by Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement: users have rights (“freedoms”) to install, run, freely use, study, distribute and modify (improve ) software product, as well as distribution of copies and results of changes.
For software to become free software, it must be released under one of the so-called free licenses. Linux OS (kernel, main components of the system) and most of its user applications are licensed GNU GPL (General Public License).
The concept of free software in Russia
In Russia, the concept of free software is regulated by GOST R 54593-2011. The document reads: Open source software: Software distributed under the terms of a simple (non-exclusive) license (its definition is given in the Civil Code of the Russian Federation), which allow the user to:
– use the computer program for any purposes not prohibited by law;
– get access to the source texts (codes) of the program both for the purpose of studying and adapting, and for the purpose of processing the computer program; distribute the program (for free or for a fee, at your discretion);
– make changes to the computer program (rework) and distribute copies of the modified (reworked) program, taking into account possible requirements for license inheritance;
– in some cases, distribute a modified computer program by the user on terms identical to those on which the original program was provided to him.
Benefits of free software
The many benefits of open source software discussed above are the result of an open development process. It is worth dwelling on it in more detail. Many years ago, in the academic environment, they found a convenient way for programmers to create software: anyone could participate in the development and make changes to the program code. Specialists actively used this, which corresponded to Stallman’s plan: everyone made some kind of improvement. As a result, we received fast and high-quality software development.
As noted Alexey Smirnov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Basalt SPO, today business is aware that the use of proprietary foreign software is fraught with a great operational risk. And many began to look for options for switching to domestic open source software. Very often, customers choose the OS of the Alt family of the Basalt SPO company. And not because they are forced to comply with some regulatory requirements, but simply to reduce their risks. “Last year, the share of corporations and businesses in our country increased significantly compared to state organizations,” Alexei Smirnov said at the CIPR conference. “317,000 licenses were delivered, more than doubling compared to 2021.”
Spy scandals with world famous brands
What is the reason for the higher resistance of free operating systems, and in particular the Alt OS, to hacker and virus attacks?
First, the Linux architecture. Virus programs have virtually no opportunity to infiltrate the operating system code and start their malicious activities.
Secondly, the access of a large number of developers to open source. This greatly reduces the possibility of introducing “bookmarks” and other undeclared spyware into the OS, which cannot be said about proprietary software. Free software users also have the ability to control their data and equipment. In the case of installing proprietary software, this is much more difficult to do.
Spy scandals with well-known global brands happen from time to time. Of course, when they are caught by the hand. Fresh example – At the beginning of June Federal Security Service of Russia accused Apple of collaborating with US intelligence and spying on Russians using the iPhone. In a statement from the department, the incident was called “an intelligence operation by American intelligence agencies,” in which “several thousand telephone sets of this brand” were involved. Rostec banned all its employees, including organizations that are part of the state corporation, to use the iPhone for official purposes. The Ministry of Industry and Trade also banned employees to use iPhone for work correspondence from July 17, 2023.
Thirdly, having access to open source, appropriately qualified specialists can audit the system, find errors and vulnerabilities at all stages of the software life cycle. It is important that the openness of the code allows you to quickly identify obvious vulnerabilities, both at the stage of OS development and in the initial period of its use. And thanks to the large number of members of the developer community, and the procedures for reporting errors and fixing them, the identified shortcomings are eliminated promptly, which serves as a guarantee of the high quality of open source software.
Users of proprietary software are at a disadvantage. First, the copyright company must decide whether it is appropriate to issue the appropriate “patch”? Then calculate the time for its development. And if the software version is not the newest, and if the error is specific, not often encountered, is it worth doing something at all? After all, the costs are unlikely to pay off. And as long as the point is yes, users will be at risk.
Wide choice of hardware platforms and quick adaptation to business needs
The wider the list of hardware platforms with which the operating system is compatible, the more options the company has in choosing servers, storage systems, workstations, respectively, the more ways to reduce the cost of operating the infrastructure. Therefore, free software-based solutions will be more preferable: when purchasing some new hardware, an organization can create a software assembly for a given architecture using its own specialists, or order it from a third-party company. Thus, the choice of architecture remains with the customer organization, and is not dictated by the software developer. Note also that domestic hardware platforms are better supported by open source software than by proprietary solutions.
Another advantage of open source is that the software quickly adapts to new business needs. Companies can make changes or add functionality if the current version of the software does not suit them (does not have the necessary functionality, is not compatible with some applications, etc.).
With the existing variety of document formats, sometimes there are problems associated with reading or editing in different operating systems, or on different hardware platforms. Even more difficulties arise when collaborating on documents. Therefore, it is advisable to use office suites based on the international open standard ODF (Open Document Format). It is a document format for texts, spreadsheets, drawings, databases, presentations for storing and sharing editable files. One of the main arguments in favor of ODF is the ability to open, read and edit files with a fairly large set of free tools.
Proprietary software is created by a small group of specialists, free and open source software is the result of the joint work of thousands of skilled and motivated programmers from dozens of countries. Thanks to the openness of the development process and wide cooperation, free software is brought to a high level of perfection. This is another good reason, besides safety and security, why users choose such software.
SPO in Russia
In our country The concept of development, development and use of free software was formulated in 2007.
In November last year, the Government of the Russian Federation adopted Decree “On conducting an experiment on granting the right to use programs for electronic computers, algorithms, databases and documentation for them, including the exclusive right to which belongs to the Russian Federation, under the terms of an open license and creating conditions for the use of open source software.”
Among the main goals of the experiment:
ensuring unlimited (repeated), unless otherwise provided by law, the use of software in the Russian Federation under the terms of an open license;
introduction of modern practices of creation and development of software;
ensuring import substitution in the field of information technology, creating new Russian information systems based on open source software;
increasing the participation of domestic companies in the development of open source software while maintaining access to solutions that provide the possibility of reusing software, including those developed under the state order.
The main objectives of the experiment:
creation in the Russian Federation of conditions for the publication of open source software, including the exclusive right to which belongs to the Russian Federation, for the purpose of its free use (including for the purpose of modification and distribution);
determination of conditions for federal executive bodies in terms of the use of open source software, the exclusive right to which belongs to the Russian Federation;
creation of a national repository.
Today, free operating systems are available to domestic customers that meet almost any requirements. In particular, Basalt SPO offers a wide range of software solutions that are in no way inferior to foreign products in all key parameters, and surpass them in a number of critical indicators. According to experts, the mass transition of most enterprises to Russian operating systems will occur in the next 3-4 years.