Open source software moves into all businesses

Open source software moves into all businesses

Summary: A Black Duck survey and the Linux Collaboration Summit both show that open-source software and the open-source method are moving well beyond where you think they live, and into all businesses.


We all know open source has become an important tool in pure software development. What's now becoming clear, according to a Black Duck Software and North Bridge Venture Partners open-source survey that was released on April 17th and events at the Linux Foundation's Linux Collaboration Summit, is that open source is now helping improve enterprise networking, smart cars, and academia.

Linux and open-source software is now in all industries and "devices", including this Linux-enabled Land Rover. (Image: The Linux Foundation)

For example, at the Summit, the simple fact that The Linux Foundation was successful in getting such mortal business enemies as Big Switch, Cisco, and Juniper on the same page in the OpenDaylight Project to open-source software defined networking (SDN) is amazing. It's not just lip-service to finding a common way to implement SDN's core OpenFlow protocol, the members are putting in tens of millions of dollars in resources for code that will be openly shared with everyone — including non-members.

Why are they doing this? As executive director of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin said, OpenDaylight members can share on a "level playing field where no single actor can dominate the process. They understand that they can gain more by working together in an open-source way with open-source governance, while still competing in the marketplace".

The same is true in the automobile industry. As Matt Jones, a senior technical specialist for Jaguar Land Rover infotainment systems said at the Summit, competitors, such as Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota, are working together on common operating system and application programming interfaces (APIs) because they can focus on delivering applications and not worry about operating system infrastructure. "When was the last time you bought a car based on its operating system?" Jones asked.

Away from the conference, the recently released survey of more than 800 open-source-savvy business professionals revealed that they see the most important open-source trend in the next two to three years to be... on the desktop? In the cloud? At Microsoft!? No, no, and, oh my, no! Growth of open-source knowledge and culture in academia ranked highest overall.

Why? That's easy. Linux and open source needs people. As the recent Linux Jobs Survey found, managers from corporations, small and medium businesses (SMBs), government, and staffing agencies want Linux professionals — and they needed them yesterday. As Jon Corbet said in his Linux weather report at the Summit, only about 10 percent of Linux kernel developers are now working on their own, and the only reason they're not working for a company that supports their Linux programming is because they don't want to. "If you can get code in the Linux kernel, you can have a job anytime you want."

Another result of this trend is that companies are also becoming more supportive of actively working with the OSS community. Their first reason for doing this is to reduce their IT costs, but the second reason now is to attract good developers and IT staff. If a company actively supports OSS, the logic is that it will be easier to attract and keep top technology talent.

Other important trends were: The adoption of open-source software (OSS) into non-technical segments, 86.3 percent; OSS Development methods adopted inside businesses; increased awareness of OSS by consumers, 71.9 percent; and growth of industry specific communities, 63.3 percent.

As for which industry will be most impacted by OSS over the next 2-3 years, government was ranked No. 1 with 35 percent of respondents, followed by health/medical/life sciences in a distant No. 2 with 15 percent, Media in No. 3 with 13 percent, Financial No. 4 with 9 percent, and Automotive at No. 5 with 8 percent.

One interesting change from the last survey was how important people ranked the factors that matter to open source adoption in business:

    1. Better Quality

    2. Freedom from vendor lock-in

    3. Flexibility, access to libraries of software, extensions, add-ons

    4. Elasticity, ability to scale at little cost or penalty

    5. Superior security

    6. Pace of innovation

    7. Lower costs

    8. Access to source code

The 2012 survey results had Freedom at number one, Flexibility at number two, and Quality in third place. One surprising result here is how low "access to source code" ranked — it ranked lowest of all the factors, with 14 percent ranking it unimportant. Historically, code access has always ranked as the most important to free software supporters.

Another interesting result was how this group perceived the relative importance of open source vs. proprietary alternatives. Many people believe that low total cost of ownership (TCO) is the single most important reason companies turn to OSS. It's important, but it's not number one.

Instead, the top three are: Competitive features/technical capabilities, security concerns, and then TCO. Oddly enough, "Formal Commercial Vendor Support", which traditionally has been seen as a vital requirement for enterprises, ranked dead last. It would seem that businesses that use OSS are finding that they don't need external technical support the way they historically have with proprietary software.

Specifically when it came to OSS vs. proprietary in terms of which were better, the survey found that while, as always, operating systems and development tools were the top two, the number three spot varied according to what role a company played in the economy. Vendors saw cloud taking third, but non-vendors saw mobile in the three spot, while larger companies (1,000 and up employees) saw OSS taking the third spot in big data. The end conclusion is that there's great interest in OSS solutions in cloud, mobile, and big data in coming years.

What does it all mean? In a statement, Tim Yeaton, president and CEO of Black Duck Software said: "The 2013 Future of Open Source Survey results point to a cultural shift in business, where companies are employing a new level of sophistication as they work within OSS communities to attract talented developers and influence projects while maintaining good citizenship in the community. The technology, as well as the tenets of open source, are being adopted, the surest indicator of the positive changes that can come with OSS."

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Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software, IT Priorities, Linux, Software, IT Employment, IT Policies

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  • Please Please SJVN

    Does us all a favor and retire. Please...
    • yes, yes

      lets instead read about microsoft funded 'studies' and cheer for proprietary software whose main goal is to kill off other software and competition using various tactics, rather than work with it.
      • It's interesting that he managed to mention MS in the article

        for no apparent reason since it didn't add to the article.

        But then again it's a fact that those that fear something tend to obsess over it, as SJVN does.

        Funny, when he writes a purely Linux themed article with no mention of anything other then the material at hand, he gets more compliments, so why not just stick to that style?
        William Farrel
        • re: It's interesting that he managed to mention MS in the article

          He just can't help himself. He's stalking Microsoft.
          Sir Name
          • Open Source goes up. Closed Source goes down. Equal and opposite reactions.

            IBM is a proprietary OS maker. He could have mentioned IBM. Would you have prefered him to mention IBM instead?
            Tim Jordan
      • Please stop

        SJVN managed to approach the topic of Open Source software, without taking shots at companies that produce proprietary software. Let's follow his example.
        • re: Please stop

          No he didn't. Look at the end of paragraph 5.
          Sir Name
          • re: Please stop

            @Sir Name

            please re-read paragraph 5 yourself... that was *not* a shot as MS. There was a mention of MS but only to say that "the most important open-source trend in the next two to three years" would not be happening at MS not on the desktop. This is not a shot at MS (or desktops) but rather a well educated guess based on current relationships between MS and open-source.
            David Dreggors
      • Microsoft is trying to sell ice cream.

        And everyone else keeps giving it away for free. How do you tune your business model to deal with that. -- I know, pump some more money into ZDNut, the 24/7 Microsoft infomercial. Write a disparaging article against MS and watch the "independent" posters come to the rescue.

        A -30 problem article here about Microsoft is actually damage control when the shill factor brings it to only a -10, for a net gain of 20 yards. Lets here some more about those bad critical updates!
        • Microsoft infomercial?

          Is that why the articles that aren't negative about Windows 8 are about 1 for every 4 that say it needs to be saved, or that it's dead, or something to that tune? Is that why they constantly throw out browser tests that IE constantly loses? Is that why a majority of the mobile devices that are reviewed are Android or iOS? Is that why they recently moved to MacBooks and GMail accounts?
          Michael Alan Goff
          • I guess Joe feels

            that "his side" is losing.

            William Farrel
        • What are you trying to sell, Joe.Smetona?

          Oh yes, that infomercial that you always show us about how Linux will save the universe.

          SyFy turned it down, and so are we, since you appear frantic to discredit MS at any opportunity you can, so we see you as the director of imfomercial you're trying to be.
          William Farrel
  • #1 — Better Quality

    This might be believable if these organizations are using OpenBSD (which SJVN never writes about).
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • OpenBSD

      Why? OpenBSD is a good OS, especially from the security point of view. The problem is the pace of development. Compared to even FreeBSD it's very slow, whereas the latter is substantially slower than that of Linux. Please name me at least one supercomputer running OpenBSD. How many popular arm devices are there?
      As far as embedded devices are concerned, it might be a good choice for some hardware, but NetBSD and Linux would still be more portable OS's.
      • Missed the point

        OpenBSD has been auditing their code since 1996 (see the link in my post below). Not only does this improve security, it also improves 'quality'. Look at their defect rate (you'll have to drill down a little).

        Many open-source projects could choose to learn from OpenBSD. And it won't be many eyes, but a small number of individuals with strong software quality assurance skills focused on improving their code base.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • if you'd be

          able to compare the rate at which changes to the code are committed in both projects, you'd have a stronger point. You also have a couple contradictions in you assertions:
          1) OpenBSD is also also a free project with a different philosophy. It's not proprietary.
          2) would OpenBSD be able to afford more eyes, they might have improved their code quality even more.
          • Never stated nor implied that OpenBSD was proprietary

            I put it forward as an example of an open-source project that has, for some time now, taken software quality assurance seriously. With amazing results. They are already flirting with zero defects for security (did you even bother to look at their recent defect rates?!).
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Linux, with all of its corporate backing (do you need a list?)

            ought to be able to afford a reasonably equivalent code auditing effort even with its high level of code commits. Linux kernel hackers have commented in the past that the kernel could use more code auditing than it has gotten.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
  • SJVN's credibility: It's over.

    Actually, I wasn't going to comment on this article because I didn't see any gratuitous Windows trashing. However, upon closer inspection, I see a gratuitous Microsoft slam, so it's fair game. And, like Linux and Chromebooks, most people in the real world really don't care about open source.
    Sir Name
    • Wonder

      You wrote so many times - it is over -- for SJVN credibility, so it must be very, very negative by now. Beware of integer underflow :)