Are You Looking for Secure OpenSource Messaging Options

The open source community is, if nothing else, fiercely loyal.

Users love the flexibility, the lower cost and the community effort to continually improve the code — and will proclaim these benefits to any and all who will listen.

So it's significant when a survey of this group reveals a failing of any type, in this case a lack of a good messaging system.

Messaging, Collaboration Issues

Last November, the Ponemon Institute released a Zimbra-sponsored survey of 1,398 IT professionals. It revealed -- not surprisingly -- that the respondents perceptions of commercial open source software for messaging and collaboration are more positive than their perceptions of proprietary software.

More surprisingly, though, is what else the survey uncovered. It found many of these respondents were dissatisfied with their current messaging and collaboration platforms, the majority of which are proprietary solutions.

Yet, companies have been slow to adopt open-based versions of these applications.

The study found that only 30 percent of business applications used by US respondents' organizations are commercial open source. That number drops to 25 percent in other parts of the world.

Thirty-nine percent of US respondents and 30 percent of foreign-based respondents reported that their organizations’ IT department is involved in the evaluation and/or selection of messaging and collaboration solutions. That involvement may or may not be a factor in the crawl to adoption.

There are, of course, open source applications in the market worth investigating, such as the open-source publish-subscribe messaging tool provider Apache Kafka and study sponsor Zimbra's own product. In addition, there are others coming online by the day.

But will these applications languish while users remain discontented with the proprietary versions?

Privacy, Security Focus

Maybe not, based on another finding from the survey. This one found that respondents are very supportive of security and privacy improvements for commercial open source messaging and collaboration solutions.

Now combine that approval with the acute awareness that cyber risk has become a grave threat to corporate America and its customers.

The reality: messaging and collaboration applications seen as secure will surely be more quickly embraced and adopted.

As it happens, there are open source applications that hit this security sweet spot coming to market now.

This week Open Whisper Systems announced the latest iteration of its app, Signal 2.0. The app allows users to send end-to-end encrypted group, text, picture and video messages between Signal on iPhone and TextSecure on Android, without SMS and MMS fees.

Essentially the app, as the company describes in its announcement, "blends private phone calls and private messaging into a single frictionless interface…"

A bigger development in this space occurred last October, when a Goldman Sachs Group-led consortium of financial companies acquired Perzo. Now called Symphony, the company had developed an open source instant-messaging app for the workplace.

The venture included BlackRock, Citadel, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Jefferies, JPMorgan, Maverick and Morgan Stanley. It acquired the company for $66 million with the goal of eventually using it for themselves.

"Symphony responds to a pressing need across the industry for better methods of communication and collaboration," said Darren Cohen, Managing Director and Global Co-Head of Principal Strategic Investments at Goldman Sachs. "We are pleased by the support from many of the world’s most prominent financial firms, which speaks to the strong desire for a more open, secure, compliant and efficient communication platform."