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What is Open Source, and how does it relate to FIRE?

FIRE has been built upon what is called Open Source systems; this means both the operating system for the servers, as well as the programming and database languages are Open Source. Open Source competes with other commercially available technologies such as Microsoft, Oracle, etc.

The choice of Open Source was made for FIRE after exhaustive evaluation of all systems on the market. We looked at dozens of technologies and solutions, from off the shelf packages to complete custom code and in the end we choose the technologies which were the most stable, most dynamic, most economically viable, and the ones with the best ability to scale to our customer’s needs. Overall, the clear choice based on these criteria was Open Source technologies.

However, we are sometimes called upon to defend the choice of Open Source, mainly because there is some misunderstanding and mistrust of Open Source based systems on the market.

It is therefore important to understand the facts of Open Source vs. proprietary technologies so you can make the best decision, without being influenced by fear based marketing.



Market Share

Open Source, particularly in the world of database driven websites, is without question the dominant technology. It is used by multi-national companies such as Yahoo and Google to run huge infrastructures, as well as by small companies.

For hard numbers, independent surveys show that open source web servers such as Apache have dominated over 60% of the market share since 2000. [details] Further, the highly popular open source database MySQL has greater market share than Microsoft’s MSSQL or Oracle. [details] And the numbers continue to grow.

Specifically in the Oilfield, companies such as Pason, Schlumberger, and a huge number of other companies rely on the same technologies used by FIRE.


Open Source is generally agreed upon to be more secure than proprietary technologies such as Microsoft. This is not only a result of the fundamental philosophy of Open Source, but also because if there is a flaw in an Open Source based systems it can be quickly recognized by anyone in the open source community and quickly resolved. [please also refer to the cost section below]

The security argument is backed up by industries who choose to run their most sensitive systems on Open Source technologies; market share of Open Source servers in the SSL space (secure certificates used for online payment type applications) is over 50%, followed by Microsoft at under 40%. [details]

However, it is also worth noting that the security of any application depends just as much on how it was written as it does on the language in which it was written. FIRE has been created from the ground up knowing that your financial data, customer information and much of your proprietary data will be housed in the system -- we therefore take security very seriously.


Open Source servers are typically rebooted less than twice a year, and usually because of upgrades or changes chosen by the developers.

Microsoft based servers typically require a reboot every few months in order for them to remain stable.

In addition, the security and bug fixes for Open Source servers are relatively rare, usually of a non-critical nature, and do not typically require a reboot.

Microsoft often has multiple critical security patches per month, and many also require a server reboot which can often causes unexpected behaviors.


Much of the distrust of Open Source comes from this point - Open Source technologies are typically either free or have very low licensing costs. [however, please refer to the ownership point below]

Certainly this is counter-intuitive. Typically you get what you pay for, and free would be the worst case. However, the model of Open Source has turned this paradigm on it's ear, at least in the world of programming.

Open Source leverages the frustration of thousands of programmers worldwide, including many of the best, who could not change commercially available products such as Microsoft. Therefore, Open source did two things:

  • allowed all programmers worldwide to create the best software they could, meaning continuous improvements by people with widely varying perspectives
  • exposed the code to everyone, so any flaws were quickly diagnosed and fixed; as opposed to closed technologies where flaws can exist and be exploited unless the owner chooses to fix them

A side effect of making this code available to everyone for continuous improvement was the inherent requirement for no licensing cost.

Therefore, with many Open Source technologies you often get a better product, while avoiding licensing costs.

Open Source does not necessarily mean not owned

Even though the baseline programming language and database technologies may be Open Source, the code and development that companies such as those used for FIRE is proprietary. So, for example, PHP itself is an open source programming product, but code written with PHP does not have to be open source.

An analogy to this would be that the protocol for how a cellular phone communicates is free, but how each company decides how to use it and how they build their phones is proprietary.

Therefore, you don't have to worry that source code for FIRE is available for anybody to review on the web. Nor do you have to worry that FIRE as a product is going to disappear. The source code for FIRE is wholly owned by Claero, and development is tightly controlled and guarded.


Open Source programming code such as PHP runs happily on Unix, Linux, Macintosh, as well as all Microsoft servers. The client or laptop/desktop applications are equally portable between Microsoft and non-Microsoft systems.

Microsoft technologies such as ASP and .Net only run on Windows based systems. As well as limiting your options, this also inherently ties users into more licensing costs for Microsoft based databases, servers and client applications.

Code Reuse

One remarkable aspect of the Open Source community is that a great deal of industry leading software is made available free of charge.

An example of how this is useful is the feedback tracking system used by FIRE. The developers of FIRE wanted an industry leading piece of software that would allow for the submittal and tracking of all recommendations or issues that any FIRE user worldwide might submit. A shared, free Open Source solution with a comprehensive feature set was found in the Open Source community, and adapted for use within FIRE at a low cost.

This is in contrast to the proprietary software world, where applications are developed over an over again; each time at substantial cost to the customer, and each time re-creating the same functionality.

Clearly this can not be done for all aspects of the FIRE software, however it does mean some major enhancements in functionality can be added with minimal additional cost to our clients.

Clearly those in the Open Source community are not the only ones being won over either. Microsoft, IBM and other traditional software companies are being forced into the area.

Examples include Microsoft Supported "PHP on Windows".