News & Insights for the AI Journey|Sunday, November 17, 2019
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Enterprise Embrace of Open Source Quickens 

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There’s been much fretting among open-source developers over the past year as software giants like IBM and Microsoft have snapped up key pieces of that vibrant community. Widely seen as operating from the premise of enlightened self-interest while tapping sources of steady innovation, Microsoft acquired GitHub last summer for $7.5 billion. IBM’s blockbuster $34 billion deal for Red Hat underscored the vitality of the sector while simultaneously raising concerns about the future of open-source development.

Not to worry, Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) asserts in its inaugural survey of enterprise open source development, concluding that open-source software has “permeated the technology landscape,” often replacing proprietary code via commercial Linux distributions like Red Hat’s.

“Enterprise open source today can also take the place of proprietary software for many different purposes from virtualization to message buses to application servers,” Red Hat noted in blog post describing the survey findings.

“Open source is also helping to define and shape new approaches to infrastructure from containerization to software-defined-storage,” the soon-to-be-IBM unit added.

Red Hat said it polled 950 IT executives around the world, with fully 69 percent confirming that enterprise open source software is either “extremely important” (29 percent) or “very important” (40 percent) to their company strategy. That majority reflects the steady shift to agile micro-services like application containers orchestrated by de facto standard tools like the Kubernetes cluster manager. Those and other emerging IT infrastructure tools are mostly based on the foundational Linux kernel.

As did IBM (NYSE: IBM), open-source leader Red Hat recognized where infrastructure development was headed when it moved last year to acquire container startup CoreOS, which took on market leader Docker with the goal of bringing Linux-based container technology to more enterprise users. In announcing the January 2018 deal, Red Hat said it planned to integrate the startup’s Kubernetes container orchestration capabilities with its existing portfolio of OpenShift and other hybrid cloud platforms aimed at delivering cloud-native application workloads.

Red Hat’s open source survey released this week also found that enterprises are increasingly using open-source software in areas traditionally associated with proprietary applications. These include, in order of preference: web development, cloud management tools, security, big data and analytics; and databases.

Meanwhile, more than half of respondents said they are using open source tools to upgrade their IT infrastructure, followed closely by application development and delivery. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said they have increased their use of open-source software over the past year, while 59 percent said they expect to continue that trend over the next 12 months.

Red Hat asserts that the inexorable shift away from proprietary to open-source source is being driven by software-defined infrastructure, cloud-native platform and, in particular, emerging AI technologies.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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