Do FOSS and Linux make for a promising field for open source experts?
FOSS and Linux are one of the fastest-growing fields in the IT industry. Many big companies like Google, Zoho, Oracle, Red Hat, Oracle, Yahoo, Novell, and Nokia deal with Linux/FOSS software. These companies offer multiple opportunities within the scope of their products, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
When companies adopt open source for development, they create myriad opportunities for FOSS experts in the IT service sectors. In terms of content-management system (CMS) deployments, over 25 million websites in the world use open source CMSs like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, etc. Some of the other sectors driving the demand for experts in this industry are the government, SMEs and educational institutions.
What is the reason behind the demand for FOSS professionals?
People have started realising that “open source” does not mean “low quality”. The biggest advantage is that open source software is fully customisable, even from within the core of the system. The final developed product comes with subject-matter expertise, along with the flexibility of customised software.
You can also port the code to new hardware, adapt it to changing conditions, and reach a detailed understanding of how the system works. This extends the lifetime of an application. And, unlike earlier, we can now choose from a wide variety of completed Web products in various spheres; these range from CRMs to CMSs, and from word processors to mobile platforms.
Other advantages include the low cost of development and maintenance. Now, companies invest a large amount in acquiring software licenses. These funds can instead be used by integrators to customise FOSS software and fine-tune it to a customer’s needs. Such a system is a close fit to the actual requirement, and costs much less than licenses for proprietary software. And the large community of open source experts is a bonus.
What challenges can organisations expect while using open source? How can they be resolved?
The main challenge that Nagarro faced was version mismatches. Very often, we develop an application using the current version of the open source software, but by the time development is completed, the versions are upgraded. Therefore, changes have to be made in the old setup, which can be time consuming. However, with the ample help available from the online community, we usually overcome the issue.
Talent is another major challenge. We impart internal training to overcome this shortcoming.
How can technology firms that are contemplating open source tools prepare themselves?
There are a large number of unreliable FOSS offerings in the market. A careful analysis of the tools and technologies should be done before you choose your final product. There is a misconception that there are zero costs attached to implementing FOSS. Though FOSS significantly reduces costs, it is not free — there are expenses involved for maintenance, development, customisation, training, etc.
What are the open source tools that Nagarro uses?
Nagarro extensively uses some open source technologies like PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Ruby, etc. We also work on applications like Drupal, Joomla, Magento, WordPress and OSCommerce.
Does Nagarro have an R&D team for its open source projects?
Nagarro has R&D teams focused on the analysis of Web and mobile platforms like CMSs, SaaS applications, e-commerce engines, mobile platforms, etc. The team also evaluates various FOSS offerings for gradation in terms of usability, security and other advantages. We have also developed various extensions and enhancements to existing open source platforms.
What skills do you look for when hiring an open source professional?
Our industry still tends to focus more on technical skills. At Nagarro, we are most concerned about the analytical and coding aptitude of candidates. Aptitude is difficult to improve, while technologies can always be picked up. That is why Nagarro’s aptitude-screening tests are perhaps the toughest in the industry.
The primary skillset for a FOSS expert is the zeal to learn and experiment with new technologies. We need people who are mature, have a sense of design and aesthetics, the ability to understand business processes and articulate a concept, and an ability to work smoothly as a team. The only soft skills we really consider while hiring at Nagarro is a positive attitude (we will typically not hire someone who has a bad attitude) and good communication skills.
How many FOSS experts currently work at Nagarro? Are you planning to add to the team?
Nagarro has about 11 developers on Linux/FOSS. We plan to hire a similar number in the coming year. We are also open to hiring freshers with good programming skills and knowledge. We prefer freshers with exposure to open source projects at the college level. They should have a “can-do” attitude, and be ready to constantly challenge themselves. Prior knowledge or expertise on FOSS is valued.
Does certification in open source matter at all?
Certification is an advantage, but only to an extent. At Nagarro, we are obsessive about technical aptitude and intellectual ability. If we have to choose between a candidate who has the certification and another who has scored more marks on our difficult aptitude tests, the one with a higher aptitude score would be preferred. However, a certification does show us that the candidate has a serious bent of mind, and that might influence the hirer. It also helps in a few cases where customers require such certification.
Do you provide training to employees?
We organise frequent training sessions on various open source platforms like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Magento and OSCommerce. We also focus our training on technologies like PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL and Perl, and on the latest versions of FOSS software, or on something new that we are planning to use.
We ensure that the learning process continues thereafter. For instance, whenever a new distribution is released, we download it and allow developers to experiment with it. We strongly believe that hands-on training in open source technologies is the best way to upgrade ones skillset.
What are Nagarro’s future plans in this direction?
We have built a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) practice, which has been growing quickly over the recent months. We hope to become bigger contributors to the FOSS ecosystem in the coming years.
Open source is accompanied by the philosophy of sharing. Is Nagarro an active part of the open source community?
Nagarro contributes a lot to the services and knowledge sector. We have developed various projects using open source applications, and have shared our knowledge on various platforms. Nagarro also utilises suggestions outlined by open source experts through various platforms like blogs, wikis, technology forums, etc. We also encourage the internal and external contributions of ideas and suggestions on these forums, to build an active relationship with the developer community.
How does Nagarro feel about the open source ecosystem?
It is great to see that there are quite a few Indians and subcontinental neighbours, like Sri Lankans, who are contributing to open source projects. However, it is upsetting to see that not all companies encourage their employees to contribute to open source projects. Many employees of IT services companies are working against critical deadlines in highly controlled environments, and miss out on the intellectual stimulation and fun element of such global self-regulated collaborative projects.
What solutions do you seek from the open source community?
We would seek solutions in the field of embedded and mobile applications, more GUI/design-centric applications, and also an integrated approach to enterprise systems and applications.
What is your message to the community and the developer fraternity?
The seeds of open source have already been sown. It is time to consolidate the efforts of the developer community into a larger, more robust sphere. The future is now going beyond the Web, and entering the embedded sphere. So, think ahead, and create the future.