While ‘open source’ may still be an unknown term among the masses, the enterprise world has gone full monty with open source.
I have not met a single enterprise customer that doesn’t use open source. In fact, we are reaching a point where people are not using the term open source as much, as that’s the way the default way to write software.
I recall my interview with the former Cloud Foundry Foundation CEO, Sam Ramji, who said that within the next five years, we may not even use the term open source. That’s actually already happening.
The recent Red Hat Report validates all of these points. “A majority of organizations have increased their use of enterprise open source and plan to continue that growth. Equally noteworthy is the tiny percentage of organizations that have decreased—or plan to decrease—their use. The trend is clear,” said the report.
(Source: Red Hat)
Open Source is driving innovation
“Without a doubt, the most exciting technological innovations occurring today are taking shape in open source communities,” said Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat.
He continued, “Major developments in big data, automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are the result of smart, globally distributed teams sharing resources, making unconventional connections, and challenging one another to advance the state of the art.
Enterprise users lean towards open source as they can see advantages of open source very clearly. Open Source enables them to diverts limited resources toward innovation.
- Lowers the cost of ownership
- Lowers the cost of R&D
- Lowers the cost of development
- Gives them control and flexibility over updates/upgrades
- Gives them control to patch and improve things themselves
(Source: Red Hat)
Open Source enables customers to invest their budget and resources towards building what adds business value to their services instead of wasting resources in building blocks. As enterprise collaborates to build blocks like Kubernetes, Linux, OpenStack…it frees resources that allow them to differentiate from each other. In fact, Open Source creates more competition; a healthy competition where developers collaborate and sales teams compete.
That said, there is still a great deal of proprietary code used in the enterprise space. The change is slow but relatively faster than the consumer space. The report finds that the use of proprietary software is waning to the point where its use is expected to be at near parity with Open Source within two years.
“We’ve already seen some of the broad reasons for this shift: innovation, quality, and value. But we also see this transition powered by more specific technologies. Take containers, for example. Along with much of what is going on in the cloud-native space in general, containers are almost entirely a product of collaborative open source development. 67% of organizations plan to increase their use of containers over the next year. That’s because of open source,” said the report.
It’s not a bed of roses
Nothing is a bed of roses. Open Source has its own challenges too. Open Source is more about building an ecosystem around technologies and then serving customers with services, add-on values, and support. The healthier the ecosystem, the more successful will be the business. It’s not about setting up a GitHub repository of projects, spinning products and monetizing. That’s a recipe for failure.
Companies like Red Hat, SUSE, Hortonworks, Google, IBM and many more have succeeded because they built successful ecosystems and communities around their open source projects.
A healthy ecosystem and community also acts as a catalyst to address the one and the only challenge facing open source – security. “…unmanaged open source code—found across the web or brought in through dependencies—can introduce vulnerabilities in both open source and proprietary solution,” said the report. If you don’t have a decent community around your code, you don’t have enough eyeballs to find all those vulnerabilities.
The reality is, not every project out there will enjoy the same size of the community. In cases like these, the best option is to 1) keep your stack fully updated (I am looking at you, Equifax); 2) use a trusted source for your stack.
In comparison, open source is still more secure than proprietary code.
In the end, open source is going to become the defacto development model for writing software. There is no other way. Even the Event Horizon Telescope used GNU GPL v3 software to create the first image of a black hole. It can’t get better than this!