Open Automation in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide to Benefits, Use Cases, and Top Vendors

Open automation is rapidly transforming how organizations approach automation, offering more flexibility, accessibility, and room for customization compared to traditional closed platforms. This comprehensive guide explores the open automation landscape, top use cases and benefits, leading vendors, and recommendations for implementation.

What is Open Automation?

Open automation refers to building automation solutions using open source software and codes rather than proprietary tools.

Diagram showing the difference between closed and open automation systems

With open automation, the underlying source code is visible and can be freely modified by users and developers. This is contrast to closed systems where the code is concealed and access restricted through licenses.

Some defining characteristics of open automation:

  • Accessible Source Code: The codebase is transparent and editable, enabling customization.
  • Flexible Licensing: Very low cost or free with open source licensing like GPL, Apache, and MIT.
  • Vendor-Neutral: Not locked into a single automation vendor or proprietary technology.
  • Community-Enhanced: Developers share knowledge and innovate collaboratively.
  • Modular Architecture: Components integrate through open standards and APIs.
  • Trust & Transparency: Open code enables auditing for security, compliance, and ethics.

This open ethos fosters an ecosystem of collaborative innovation, shared libraries, customizable components, and transparency.

Organizations utilize open automation for use cases like:

  • Robotic Process Automation
  • Continuous Integration/Delivery
  • Cloud Orchestration
  • Infrastructure Provisioning
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Business Intelligence and Analytics

According to Markets and Markets, the global open source automation market will reach $54.1 billion by 2027, growing at 16.2% CAGR. Clearly, open automation delivers immense value across industries.

6 Key Benefits of Open Automation

What specific advantages drive adoption of open automation solutions?

1. Lower Costs

Open source software eliminates expensive licensing fees associated with proprietary platforms. For example, RPA tools like UiPath can cost tens of thousands in licensing, while open source RPA incur minimal fees.

Post-implementation, open automation also reduces costs through community-based maintenance rather than vendor-locked servicing. Resources saved on licensing and support can be reallocated to other initiatives.

As evidence, Peerwell estimates open source software provides cost savings of 36% on average compared to proprietary counterparts. For resource-constrained teams, open automation delivers more automation capability per dollar spent.

2. Customizability

Access to source code enables developers to customize open automation platforms, unlike closed “black box” commercial solutions. Teams can modify programs, build new features, and integrate open source components into existing infrastructure.

This means organizations can tailor solutions to their unique environment and needs rather than relying solely on vendor-defined functionality. With customization, open automation can better support an organization‘s changing objectives and future evolution.

For example, Capital One credits open source for allowing more flexible models tailored to their complex tech stack versus one-size-fits-all proprietary tools.

3. Vendor Neutrality

Rather than locking into a single vendor, open automation offers independence to assemble the optimal tools for each part of your architecture. This prevents fragmentation across systems and allows swapping components as new innovations emerge.

With commercial automation, organizations become beholden to vendor roadmaps and priorities. Open automation’s modular approach helps avoid this lock-in. For example, OPC UA and MQTT provide open standards to connect traditionally siloed industrial automation systems.

4. Security

While you may assume closed source equals more secure, empirical analysis finds the opposite. According to Synopsys, audited open source components contained vulnerabilities at a fraction of the rate of proprietary code.

The crowdsourced process of open source development, with many eyes inspecting the code, improves security. Once a vulnerability is uncovered, the community can quickly release patches. Organizations can also audit code themselves rather than trusting vendors.

For security-focused industries like finance and healthcare, open automation solutions instill confidence. Platforms like Ansible automate configuration and deployment while preventing vulnerabilities.

5. Innovation

The collaborative development approach of open automation often accelerates innovation. Developers can build upon shared open source modules rather than reinventing the wheel. The community collectively creates libraries, tools, and extensions.

Commercial automation relies solely on the vendor‘s internal roadmap. Open automation enables organizations to develop features specific to their needs and share them across the community. This fertile, crowdsourced environment cultivates rapid advancement.

For example, the open source community significantly expanded TensorFlow for machine learning beyond what Google alone could have developed.

6. Trust & Transparency

Open automation, and open source in general, promotes trust and transparency by revealing solution design, security architecture, algorithmic logic, and more.

Organizations can inspect code to audit for fairness, eliminate bias, and ensure compliance with regulatory standards. This visibility aligns with ethical expectations surrounding automation and AI.

For instance,‘s open source machine learning platform allows model inspection to assess fairness and mitigate bias. Proprietary ML often remains a black box.

Top Open Source Automation Frameworks

Many excellent open source automation tools exist across categories:

Robotic Process Automation

  • Argos Labs – Low-code RPA bots leveraging Python libraries and machine learning.
  • Apache APISIX – API gateway for microservices, webhooks, and API management.
  • Node-RED – Flow-based programming for IoT, APIs, and integration.

Continuous Integration/Delivery

  • Jenkins – Leading open source CI/CD automation server with 1500+ plugins.
  • Buildbot – Python-based framework for automating software build, test, and release processes.
  • Drone – Docker-native CI/CD platform for automating build pipelines.

Cloud & Infrastructure

  • Terraform – Provisioning, configuration, and management of cloud infrastructure.
  • Cloudify – Open orchestration for deploying, connecting, and managing cloud apps/networks.
  • FogProject – Automated deployment of Linux desktops, servers, and clusters.

Industrial Automation

  • Node-RED – Connected devices/sensors and logic flows for IoT.
  • OpenHAB – Vendor-neutral automation software for smart homes and buildings.
  • OpenPLC – Programmable logic controller for industrial automation and control.

This list highlights some popular projects, but many more exist. Evaluating community activity levels, support ecosystem, and integration options will help determine the best open automation tools for your needs.

Getting Started with Open Automation

For organizations new to open automation, here are some best practices:

  • Start with a limited pilot before broader deployment to test integration needs. Look for easy early wins.

  • Leverage existing open modules whenever possible to accelerate development. Then customize from there.

  • Closely evaluate project activity levels to ensure you choose supported platforms with ample contributors.

  • Provide internal governance for contributing fixes/features back to the community while protecting IP.

  • Architect for enterprise scale from the start. Plan for modular components that can be reused.

  • Incorporate security practices like static analysis, dependency monitoring, and latency testing into your development processes.

The Future is Open

Open automation presents a paradigm shift for organizations accustomed to closed proprietary systems. But the benefits of customization, community-driven advancement, vendor neutrality, and transparency are too compelling to ignore.

We are entering a new era of automation shaped by open source collaboration and innovation. Companies that embrace this model will benefit from incredible economies of scale and avoid the pitfalls of vendor lock-in.

While relinquishing some control, open automation unlocks greater collective potential when responsibilities are shared across a community aligned around mutual success. The future is open.