Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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‘Community-based’ Open Source on the Rise 

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As more enterprises embrace open source software for applications ranging from security and cloud management to databases and analytics, the steady shift away from proprietary software is coalescing around a “community-based” open source movement.

According to an annual snapshot on the state of enterprise open source tools released by open source leader Red Hat, expensive proprietary software licenses and fear of vendor lock-in are driving the enterprise embrace of open source code.

As more hyper-scalers contribute code to cloud management and other projects, the Red Hat survey estimates that community-based open source software usage will reach 21 percent of companies surveyed by 2022.

For instance, frequent code contributor Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) released a stable version of a programming language called Dart in December 2019. Less than two months later, a recent survey of popular search queries found the object-oriented tool for running applications on multiple platforms was among the fastest growing programming languages.

At the same time, the rise of open source development centered around key stakeholders has raised concerns that the very same vendors of proprietary software are acting with what observers call “enlightened self-interest” to gain a foothold in burgeoning open source communities.

Microsoft’s 2018 acquisition of the GitHub collaboration platform, for example, raised immediate concerns about the future direction of open source development on GitHub, which at the time of the $7.5 billion acquisition was used by more than 28 million developers. For the most part, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has so far made good on its pledge to maintain GitHub’s “developer-first ethos.”

Microsoft and other hyper-scalers have gravitated toward open source tools as community-based efforts have improved the quality and security of code. Indeed, the Red Hat survey found that more than half of respondents cited security and cloud management as the key reasons for shifting to open source tools. Along with cost, open source adopters also cited the growing number of cloud-native projects and the “ability to safely leverage open source tech.”

Infrastructure modernization was the leading use case for open source (60 percent), followed by application development (53 percent) and DevOps (52 percent). Those modernization efforts include the greater use of micro-services running on multi-cloud deployments. That enterprise trend has been driven open source orchestration tools like the de facto standard Kubernetes platform, originally developed by Google.

Indeed, micro-services such as application containers and other cloud-native technologies are driving the enterprise shift to open source. The survey found that 56 percent of those polled expected to increase use of containers over the next 12 months.

While security was the top use case for open source, survey respondents also cited lingering concerns about code security as the leading barrier to open source adoption. Across the four geographic regions covered by the open source survey, an average of 38 percent of respondents cited code security as a concern.

Red Hat’s response? “Security might refer to a belief that the availability of source code makes software more susceptible to attacks—although that’s rarely the way in which vulnerabilities are exploited.”

“The results indicate a market environment driven by collaborative innovation,” said Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst, who was named president of parent company IBM (NYSE: IBM) in a management shakeup announced at the end of January.

Red Hat’s enterprise open source study is based on interviews with 950 IT executives, including 400 in the U.S.

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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