Survey indicates four out of five developers now use open source

Forrester Research's survey shows that most developers, even ones who usually stick with Microsoft Visual Studio, are now using open source.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

RALEIGH, N.C. -- At the All Things Open conference, Jeffrey Hammond, a Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst, revealed that four out of five programmers are now using, or have recently used, open source development tools.

open-source code
Open source tools, such as the Eclipse editor being used here to look at some Android code, are now being used by 80 percent of software developers.

Forrester, with Black Duck software and North Bridge Venture Partners, conducted a survey of over 1,400 programmers and found that 84 percent now use open source software. The survey included not just programmers from open source companies but also developers from traditional proprietary companies such as Microsoft.

Why? The majority of them have switched to open source because they perceive open source development programs as having better performance and reliability. This, as Hammond observed, is a change. "Open source used to be popular because of the lower cost. Now the cost of tools is the least important element for developers."

This popularity, said Hammond, means that "open source is taking over. This is a golden age for developers." A consequence from this is that "We are now seeing open source tech compete with open source tech; it's no longer open-source software vs proprietary."

In addition, the survey reveals the three industries expected to be impacted the most by open source software are education, government, and health care. In these, and other areas, Hammond said, open source projects like Apache Tomcat, the JavaServer Pages (JSP) server, are replacing proprietary programs.

And open source is doing more than just replacing old software. It's also leading the way in new software. Hammond cited big data and NoSQL as areas where open source has become the software groundbreaker. Proprietary software doesn't really stand a chance in these new fields.

Companies are going along with this, according to Hammond, not just because of the cost savings but because they'd rather try an open source solution than deal with the hurdles of acquiring proprietary software.

The survey indicates that open source is leading in several other fields as well, including cloud/virtualization (73 percent); Content Management Systems (CMS) (66 percent); Mobile (61 percent); Security (59 percent); and network management (57 percent).

However, while development has swung heavily toward open source on the server, datacenter and cloud, on the desktop Windows still rules. The most popular single developer desktop operating system is Windows 7. Indeed, slightly more than two out of three programmers are running Windows, while just over 12 percent use Linux and slightly less run Macs.

Hammond thinks this is due to inertia. For example, when it comes to software configuration management (SCM), Hammond was "blown away" to find that the single most-used SCM program is Microsoft's long obsolete Visual SourceSafe.

Still, despite some proprietary hold-outs, the general trend is clearly toward open source tools. Hammond pointed out that Windows developers, for example, are migrating to Git for SCM. Ironically, Git, along with Linux, is a product of the fertile mind of Linus Torvalds.

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