Red Hat finds enterprise users are adopting open-source software at a rapid pace

The Red Hat survey found that proprietary software usage is in decline as open-source software continues its take over of the enterprise software world.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Open Source
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Enterprise customers believe open-source software is great. In a just-released Red Hat 2020 enterprise user report, the Linux and cloud folks from Raleigh found 95% of almost 1,000 enterprise IT leaders thought open-source is "strategically important to their organization's overall enterprise infrastructure software strategy."

Of course they do. As Red Monk analyst Stephen O'Grady said in 2005, "So you took over the enterprise: What now?", open-source software and development approaches had already reached a tipping point. There's nothing surprising that an overwhelming majority of CIOs, CTOs, and other high-level IT managers in 2020 see an open-source future. 

This survey, by the by, was not just of the Red Hat faithful. Instead, the only requirement was respondents had to use some enterprise open-source software and have at least 1% Linux installed at their organization. They were not all Red Hat customers and didn't know that this was a Red Hat sponsored survey.

The Red Hat's 2019 survey found that more than half, 55%, of respondents' software was still proprietary. This year, proprietary software fell to 42%. Two years from now, they expect proprietary software to be down to 32%. In contrast, respondents shared that 36% of their organization's software is enterprise open source and they expect that to increase to 44% in two years.  

At the same time, decision-makers are bullish on their open-source plans. Seventy-seven percent expect to increase their use of enterprise open-source software. One big reason for open-source replacing proprietary program, according to Red Hat analyst and report author Gordon Haff, is "proprietary software is losing favor because of expensive and inflexible proprietary software licenses result in high capital expenditures (CapEx) and vendor lock-in."

Haff especially found the rate at which organizations are abandoning proprietary software to be especially notable, "especially given how slowly change usually comes to the enterprise software space. Remarkably, enterprise open source is expected to rise from 36% to 44% over the next two years."

Open-source gains aren't just from enterprise open-source programs such as those from Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE. In addition, community-based open source software use in business is on the way up too. It's risen from last year's 16% of software usage to 19% today -- and it's projected to hit 21% in two years. As Haff observed, "Community-based open source isn't increasing as rapidly as enterprise open source within the companies we surveyed, but it is on an upward trajectory -- and proprietary software clearly isn't."

Cloud computing, of course, runs on Linux and open-source software. Even on Microsoft Azure, Linux virtual machines (VM)s are more common than Windows Server. The survey found 63% of enterprise IT leaders surveyed already have a hybrid cloud infrastructure. Of the 37% of respondents who don't, 54% plan to deploy a hybrid cloud within the next 24 months. 

Interestingly, when it comes to legacy applications, while not quite a third, 31% of apps are being left as is; companies are increasingly looking to the open-source cloud for their replacements. Looking ahead, 47% of these apps will be re-architected or modernized in one of three ways: 17% will be updated or modernized; 16% will be re-architected as cloud-enabled apps; and 14% will be completely re-architected as cloud-native programs.

What's driving open-source's continued progress? Historically, it's been that most pragmatic of reasons: It's cheaper. But, while the lower total cost of ownership continues to be important, the No. 1 reason for open-source popularity is that a plurality of business users -- 33% -- believe open-source software is simply better than proprietary software. This only makes sense since so much innovation in IT's leading-edge technologies -- cloud, containers, and DevOps -- are almost entirely open-source based.

Security comes in at third for why IT executives pick open-source. Ironically, the No. 1 reason why enterprise users doubt open source is also security. This seems to arise from the ancient mistaken belief, Haff wonders, "that the availability of source code makes software more susceptible to attacks -- although that's rarely the way in which vulnerabilities are exploited." Rachel Moorehead, executive director of Infrastructure and Operations at the University of Alabama Birmingham, gives a more informed view: "Enterprise open-source technologies bring a higher level of security and support to our deployments, [thus] allowing us to free up time for continual innovation towards student success and research administrations DevOps."

Moving forward, enterprise users see open-source as the future. They're right. And, except for a few companies hanging on by their nails to proprietary software business models, everyone knows it. 

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