Open source: Where are we now and where is it going?

Recently, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation - home to open source projects like Kubernetes - declared that Apple had joined the community as a premium member. The foundation is aimed at heavy users of open source technologies, such as AWS, Google and Microsoft, who want g to give back to the community. Clearly, open source is gaining in visibility and entering the mainstream, but why? By Stephan Fabel, Director of Product at Canonical - the publisher of Ubuntu.

The history

In 1998, the open source movement began with the release of free software, Navigator, which showcased the business benefits of sharing the software’s source code. The industry has never been the same since.Much like any science, the founding idea behind open source is that if all developers kept their methods secret, innovation would develop at a slower pace. The results would still be seen, but the rest of the community wouldn’t be able to verify how they were achieved, nor build on that research.

Driving forward innovation

Leveraging open source software offers several key advantages for IT teams: timesaving, flexibility and uninhibited access to innovation. Moreover, open source makes it simpler for businesses to transition between frameworks and make use of the best tools for each task. With a multitude of open source apps available, companies can cherry pick the solutions which best meet their needs.

As such, open source is powering a number of today’s biggest technology trends. The next wave of innovation will be powered by software which builds upon a collaborative effort, not just from a single company, but from a community committed to improving the entire landscape. The fate of self-driving cars, medical robots or smart cities is not something we want entrusted to a select few companies, but instead to a global community of innovators to achieve the very best outcome.

Strength in numbers

In the age of GDPR and cyber-espionage, trust is crucial. With closed source software it is impossible to confirm all background activities happening, and to analyse the reasons behind issues and errors, because only the vendor can access its backend.

With open source, the entire community can work together to spot and fix bugs or errors in the software. Being a part of this community and contributing to open source projects gives developers the chance to help shape and troubleshoot problems with emerging technology. Cyber-attacks and data breaches are a growing threat, which makes maintaining water-tight security for IT projects an essential focus for any business. In open source projects, the developer community acts as an extra layer of security.

One example is the container coordination platform for cloud development, Kubernetes, which started as an internal project at Google and was later outsourced. It has its own robust and passionate community dedicated to strengthening its security and ensuring its integrity.

The future

Never before has open source software been this popular - according to a survey of the IT decision makers by Black Duck Software, over 60 per cent of respondents already use open source software in their organisations. It is quickly becoming essential to enterprise success as they start to see the benefits open source can provide from a technological perspective, as well as delivering a relatively cost effective alternative to proprietary software. A growing number of organisations are integrating open source software into their IT operations or even building entire businesses around it.

Emerging technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing have created an environment for open source to thrive, and open source infrastructure projects have given developers the chance to help shape our entire technological future.

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