Open source is everywhere in business. Here's what's driving adoption

Report looks at open-source usage, and trends - and who is contributing code.

Non-profit Open UK has completed the second phase of its research into open-source adoption in the UK and found that 97% of businesses are using some form of open-source software, operating systems and programming languages. 

The report surveyed 273 businesses in the UK and was sponsored by GitHub – the code-sharing site that's now owned by Microsoft (itself once an opponent but now a fan of open source). 

The first phase of the report found that open source contributed £43 billion ($60.22bn) in value to the UK economy with an estimated 126,000 local developers who help create, develop and maintain open-source projects. 

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UK-based chip designer Arm is also backing the project and explained how standards-based open-source software benefited the company.      

"A big advantage of having de facto and approved software standards that are open, is that they remove the appeal of unnecessary differentiation, allowing companies to invest their time, effort and money where it really matters," said Andrew Wafaa, a distinguished engineer and senior director of Arm software communities.

"Having open-software standards easily enables a write once, run anywhere, policy."

While businesses have been stretched for resources during the pandemic through 2020 and 2021, the survey found that 64% of businesses grew in the period, which translated into a high recruitment drive for roles relating to open-source software in the past 12 months. 

The survey found that 89% of businesses run open-source software internally, while 65% contribute to open-source software projects. Contributions back to projects differed markedly between sectors. In the tech, media and communications sectors, 78% of respondents said they contribute to open-source projects, while 53% did in the non-tech sector. 

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Cost savings were the main driver for open-source adoption, but other major drivers included collaboration, skills development, quality of the code, community building, and security. 

"The UK's education sector stands out from the rest. The primary benefit in education is not cost-saving but [is] primarily skill development (77%); followed by collaboration (73%); and learning via working together and being able to experiment to improve the quality of code and fix bugs (64%) is crucial and can have very strong spill-over effects to other sectors of the economy," OpenUK noted in the report. 

The report found that 93% of organizations in banking, insurance and finance are using open-source operating systems. Furthermore, 89% are using open-source software languages. This is not surprising, given that the most popular languages, from C to JavaScript and Python, are open source.