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Ever wondered why the big beasts in software all suddenly slapped an 'I heart open-source' badge on?

Red Hat's State of Enterprise Open Source might have an answer

A shift within the enterprise to open source is gathering pace due less to total cost of ownership and more to innovations around infrastructure and container technologies, according to a new report.

The survey, based on interviews with 1,250 IT leaders (unaware that it was Red Hat sponsoring the activity) found 64 per cent of respondents citing "infrastructure modernisation" as the top use for enterprise open source (up from 53 per cent two years ago) with application development and the nebulous "digital transformation" coming second and third respectively.

Almost half of respondents had container technologies (such as Kubernetes) in production and another 37 per cent were using containers for development.

It all seems a little fast-moving for the traditionally lethargic world of enterprise technology.

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"The old model," according to Gordon Haff, senior principal product marketing manager for Red Hat, "was you got a piece of software, you put your legacy apps on it, and then you preferably didn't have to breathe on it for the next 10 years!"

Indeed, The Register is aware of one UK high-street bank alleged to be running customer-facing apps on the very-out-of-support Windows Server 2003. Of the institution, an anonymous source within Microsoft laughed: "Only one?"

"That's not an option any longer," Haff told us.

Considering the ongoing evolution of technologies such as Kubernetes and the churn within the cloud-native arena, sitting on one's hands for a decade or more is indeed no longer an option. Although, as Haff noted, companies such as Red Hat, Oracle and Canonical have attempted to make open-source innovation more "consumable" for enterprises concerned about their core infrastructure. A majority of those enterprises also expected that their container usage would increase over the next 12 months.

Do you care if your vendor contributes?

Kubernetes continues to be the big beast as far as cloud-native application strategies are concerned. Only 1 per cent of respondents did not feel it was important at all while 85 per cent described the orchestration tech as anything from Important to Extremely Important.

Another discovery in the study was that lowering TCO, once seen as the number one benefit associated with open source, had fallen to number six in the rankings. This could well reflect a dawning realisation that just because the code might sometimes be free, enterprise levels of support most definitely are not.

Edge computing, AI and ML also look to be big winners for enterprise open source over the next few years with respondents expecting proprietary software usage to decrease.

Haff told us that a new question had been added this year – one that might go some way to answering the questions of those pondering the born-again approach to open source adopted by companies such as Microsoft: "Do you care if your vendor contributes to upstream projects and participates in the open-source community?"

"I kind of expected," Haff told us, "not that many would care."

He was wrong. Lurking at the end of the report was the surprising result that "38 per cent are 'much more likely' to select a vendor who contributes, and 45 per cent are 'somewhat more likely' to do so."

A Red Hat veteran of more than a decade, Haff said: "I'm pretty sure we would not have gotten the results like that maybe even five years ago." ®

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