The struggles of publishing giant News Corp and its media brethren are no secret, but from an IT perspective scurrying to cut costs amidst falling revenues may have inadvertently put the business on the path to innovation.
Speaking at the Future IT Infrastructure forum in Melbourne this week, News Corp's top infrastructure architect Nicholas Tan urged his peers to join the publisher in embracing the open source community.
Open source is not "hobby software" anymore, Tan said.
"It’s definitely the real deal and it is powering a lot of the tech we consume today even if we don’t realise it."
News Corp has been gradually deploying open source technologies at strategic points in its stack - "where our major business value is, where we need to be highly differentiated - that is where our developer talent will go", Tan said.
For example, readers of News mastheads like The Australian, The Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph will click through to a WordPress-hosted front page, then navigate to article pages rendered with a system written in Node.js.
News is also using Nginx tools for web presentation, proxying and cache. A lot of the API tools used by Tan and his team have been specifically designed to integrate with Nginx products.
And the company has set up an internal platform for its developers to share their contributions back into the code base, earning their keep in the open source community.
"This is all at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional software from the enterprise market, who are trying to extract a profit from you then use Moore’s Law to increase that year-on-year," Tan said.
Much of Tan's newfound confidence on open source products has been spurred by the increasing maturity of the ecosystem, he said, with even tech giants like Microsoft jumping on the bandwagon.
And he has a lot of time for the players that have sprouted from the community to support their solutions for big business.
"They have a business model that is much more exposed and much more focused on value-adding in terms of what they are providing to your business than - dare I say - enterprise software vendors that only come back around every year for their 2.5 percent," Tan said.
But he warned the uninitiated to look only at the code that is constantly being added to and used in order to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.
"You don’t want Freddy’s Pokemon search tool," Tan said.
"There are the high knights of open source vs the wannabes and it is pretty obvious who they are from the tempo and commitment of the communities. If there is a really good technology then this community really embraces it and that drives adoption down the line."