Enterprise open-source is on the up and proprietary software on the way down

Says enterprise open-source house Red Hat


The use of proprietary software in enterprise organizations is expected to decline eight percentage points over the next two years, while the use of enterprise open-source software is expected to increase five percentage points.

So say 1,296 IT leaders around the world, according to Red Hat's fourth annual "The State of Enterprise Open Source" report.

Currently, report respondents say 45 per cent of their software is proprietary and they expect that figure to drop to 37 per cent in two years. Meanwhile, enterprise open source software, presently 29 per cent of the organizational software mix, is expected to reach 34 per in that same time span. And community-based open source software, now at 21 per cent, is predicted to see a slightly smaller gain, reaching 24 per cent two years hence.

Red Hat's report, released on Wednesday, attempts to measure how enterprises see business-oriented open source software within their organizations. As a vendor of open source software and related services, Red Hat has something of a vested interest in the report's findings.

"[W]hile the open source development model may have started in the playground of developers, hackers and visionaries decades ago, we’ve moved far past that," said Paul Cormier, president and CEO of Red Hat, in the report. "It’s now a mainstream part of commercial software development and the engine for consistent innovation – from the server room to public clouds to the edge and beyond."

The affinity Red Hat's report observes among companies for open source software appears to affect how they select their vendors. About 82 per cent of IT leaders, the report says, "are more likely to select a vendor who contributes to the open source community."

The reasons for this are that "they are familiar with open source processes" (49 per cent), "they help sustain healthy open source communities" (49 per cent), "they can influence the development of features we need" (48 per cent), and "they are going to be more effective if I face technical challenges" (46 per cent).

"We're seeing more direct involvement of end user companies in open source," the author, Red Hat's Gordon Haff, said. "Automotive Grade Linux and the Academy Software Foundation are two good examples of collaborations with a great deal of end-user company involvement. Open source program offices in end-user companies are also on the rise."

Red Hat, however, suggested that buying enterprise open source products provides a way to give back "because a vendor like Red Hat uses some of that revenue to pay engineers who contribute to upstream open source communities or to otherwise support various projects."

Don't plan on claiming the cost of your enterprise license agreement as a charitable contribution, however.

Open source security

Those answering Red Hat's survey see security as a benefit of open source, with 89 per cent saying open source software is "as secure or more secure" when compared to proprietary code.

Haff, a technology advocate at Red Hat, writes that anyone familiar with the IT industry should recognize that this is a shift from a decade ago when open source software prompted more concern than proprietary apps.

The most commonly cited security benefits, however, are not that bugs are arguably more visible in open source code or that open source code can be easily audited. Rather, at least for those surveyed, the major security selling point is the ability to "use well-tested open-source code for our in-house applications" (55 per cent). After that, it's that "security-patches are well-documented" (52 per cent), prompt patch availability (51 per cent), the number of eyes on the code (44 per cent) and the opportunity to audit the code (38 per cent).

Some 80 per cent of IT leaders surveyed foresee increasing their usage of open source for emerging technologies. These consist of things like AI/ML, edge computing/IoT, containers, and serverless, which are currently being used by 71 per cent, 71 per cent, 68 per cent and 61 per cent of respondent organizations, respectively.

Currently, organizations say they're using enterprise open source for IT infrastructure modernization (62 per cent), digital transformation (54 per cent), application development (52 per cent), and application modernization (48 per cent).

Kubernetes figures prominently in enterprise open source, with 70 per cent of IT leaders saying they use the container tech and about a third saying they think they'll use more of it in the next 12 months.

Enterprises, however, face obstacles that prevent them from consuming more containers. For 43 percent, lack of skills hinders adoption. Another 39 per cent say they don't have the development staff or resources to further containerize. About 33 per cent say they don't have any applications to containerize, and 29 per cent say they just don't have the time.

Crossing the chasm

More broadly, there are worries about potential barriers to adoption of enterprise open source. These include: concerns about support (36 per cent); concerns about compatibility (33 per cent); concerns about code security (32 per cent); and lack of internal skills to manage and support everything.

In an email to The Register, a Red Hat spokesperson said companies can make their skills shortage worse if they simply download community-supported open source and try to integrate and support it on their own.

"While you can't offload everything about your IT infrastructure, an enterprise open source vendor can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to focus on the software that is unique to your business," Haff said.

Why then are organizations sold on enterprise open source? IT respondents cite better security (32 per cent), higher software quality (32 per cent), the ability to utilize open source technology safely (28 per cent), and that it's designed to work in the cloud (26 per cent).

But if there's anything in this report to warm the heart of Red Hat and like-minder sellers of enterprise open source it's that price is no longer among the top reasons enterprise IT leaders cite for using enterprise open source; in fact, lower total cost of ownership now sits near the bottom of the list of perceived benefits, in ninth place.

Open source, meet open checkbook. ®


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