Reliance on Open Source Software Set to Increase

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A global survey of 1,250 IT leaders conducted by Red Hat finds nearly 80% of respondents expect to increase use of emerging open source software technologies over the next two years, with the top three use cases being infrastructure modernization (64%), application development (54%) and digital transformation (53%).

However, while there’s a lot of interest in all things open source it’s not necessarily easy to implement. The top barriers to adoption of open source software identified by survey respondents are the level of support available (42%), compatibility (38%), security of the code (35%), and lack of internal skills (35%).

Overall, the study finds 90% of respondents now employ open source software to vary degrees, with most of them deploying it on public clouds (70%). In fact, most survey respondents (87%) noted they view open source software as being either “more secure” or “as secure” as proprietary software.

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Open Source Projects on the Rise

While most organizations employ open source software it’s not clear at what cost. Many organizations now have an “open source first” policy in place as part of an effort to reduce their costs. However, integrating multiple open source software tools and platforms can be costly. Most open source software finds its way into the enterprise because a developer downloaded it. 

The best thing about open source software is most organizations don’t require permission for developers to employ it. However, it’s usually not long before an organization starts paying for support for a curated instance of open source software once it begins to be widely used. For example, Red Hat and others provide distributions of Linux that they update on behalf of customers once it is determined that a new capability the community has created is stable enough to be deployed in a production environment.

It’s worth noting the true cost of open source software is becoming more apparent to IT organizations. A similar survey Red Hat conducted two years ago found the primary benefit of using open source software was cost. In this study, the biggest benefit cited was higher quality software, followed by providing access to the latest innovation and then security. Cost this year dropped to sixth in terms of benefits cited.

The primary reason for that drop is a greater appreciation for the quality of open source software that is now typically worked on by teams for developers that are larger than most IT vendors can afford to employ, says Gordan Haff, a technology evangelist for Red Hat. In addition, it’s apparent open source projects are taking the lead in, for example, driving development of innovative cloud native computing and artificial intelligence (AI) platform, notes Haff. “It’s a lot more strategic,” he says.

However, Haff notes that there is still much work to be done in terms of making open source software more consumable for the average IT enterprise. Web scale companies and larger enterprises tend to have software engineers capable of integrating and maintaining open source software. The average IT department is made up of administrators that typically have limited programming skills.

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Open Source Forks

Another issue that tends to derail some open source initiatives is compensation. It’s not uncommon now for a subset of a community for financial reasons to decide to create a “fork” of a project that over time becomes less compatible with the original. 

Most recently, two forks of a CentOS project that was compatible with RHEL has created some consternation in the Linux community, while Elastic recently changed its terms to make it more difficult to for cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) to reap all the financial benefits from the open source search tool. AWS then promptly announced it would create a fork of Elastic project to enable it to continue to deliver that service.

Despite these issues open source software is clearly here to stay. In fact, the fastest growing use case for open source software is networking (54%), according to the Re Hat survey.

Regardless of how much open source software any IT organization consumes the issue is always the same. Unless they are willing to invest in hiring a lot of software engineers it’s almost always better to rely on a curated version that, for a fee, somebody else will both nurture and support.

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