Open-source use goes up while the economy goes down

Wall Street may continue its insane upward rise, but Tidelift is finding the more sensible, financially strapped businesses on Main Street are turning ever more open source.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

This is pretty simple really. Open source works, and it's cheap. And when the Main Street economy is going rotten, smart businesses turn to open source. Tidelift, a major commercial support, and maintenance company for community-led open-source, found the proof for this idea in its third-annual Managed Open Source Survey

As Tidelift CEO Donald Fisher explained, "This finding continues a trend that began after the recession of the early 2000s and continued after the financial crisis of 2008. Organizations turn to open source in tough economic times because it helps them reduce costs and improves their ability to innovate." 
Specifically, it's all about doing more with less during the coronavirus recession.

  • Forty-two percent of organizations report their application development budgets were cut, and 44% of organizations state they are likely to use more open source.
  • More than two-thirds say saving time and money is the top reason to use more open source for application development during the downturn (68%), while increasing efficiency of application development and maintenance was cited by almost half of respondents (48%).

Interestingly, the larger the company -- organizations with over 1,000 employees -- the more likely they were to cite efficiency (61% vs. 41% for organizations under 1,000 employees) as a reason for encouraging open source.

And, as always, avoiding proprietary vendor lock-in is another reason why companies keep turning to open source. Forty percent of organizations are turning to open source as a way to replace expensive proprietary software and gain more control over future spending. Here again, this was a more important reason for larger companies, 50% for organizations with over 1,000 employees, than smaller ones, 37% for organizations under 1,000 employees.

Switching over to open source from proprietary programs and methods, though, isn't a walk in the park though. Tidelift's survey found: 

  • Large companies are often burdened by cumbersome open-source approval processes. At the same time, the new work from home IT teams are struggling to make good decisions about what components to use and how to identify and resolve security vulnerabilities.
  • Confidence in an organization's open-source practices declines as company size grows. Only a small fraction (18%) of organizations are extremely confident that their open source components are secure, up-to-date, and well maintained.
  • That said, almost half, 49%, of the leaders of the largest companies are encouraging moving to open-source methods and software. 
  • Formal processes around open source management are on the rise, but it is still a free for all -- only 17% of organizations have a formal process for managing open source.

As for contributing to open source, and not simply using open-source programs:

  • 83% of those surveyed said their organization, contributes to open source. 
  • Of those, almost half, 49%, have policies governing employee contributions to open source. The most popular way that organizations contribute to open source is through allocating employee time for coding, writing, or otherwise supporting open-source projects. 

Specifically, Tidelift found the top three programming languages organizations rely on most are JavaScript, Python, and Java. JavaScript is used by 78% while Python is used by just over half 52%. Java is used in applications far more often at larger organizations, 66% vs. only 32% for other groups.

If you need help with creating and managing open-source projects and software, Tidelift, needless to say, will be happy to help you with its Tidelift Subscription. This makes it easier to create and manage catalogs of known-good properly maintained open-source components.  While, at the same time, paying the maintainers who create them to keep these programs secure and enterprise-ready.

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