Open Source Software Powering Business Application Boom

Free-to-use software code is woven into the heart of many IT tools and services, and it’s helping enterprises develop their own applications.

By Scott Steinberg

By Scott Steinberg March 15, 2023

Competitive currency fueling future growth of many businesses is tied to new applications and more data. More enterprises will become software factories, driving up the number of new applications to half a billion by 2023. This drives the need for simpler, cheaper ways of scaling and managing IT systems that blend different infrastructures and software, including open source software.

Eight in 10 organizations are adopting a hybrid cloud IT approach, with 89% of those utilizing a multicloud strategy, according to Flexera 2022 State of the Cloud Report. This approach give IT teams the ability to manage and move applications and data to run in the most optimal place, whether that’s in the private cloud or colocated data center, a public cloud or a mix.

Open source software, which is freely available for distribution and modification, plays a big role in many IT organizations. So much so that 95% of IT leaders now feel open source software is an essential part of their enterprise, according to the 2022 State of Enterprise Open Source report. Open source provides widely-adaptable and cost-effective building blocks for creating new business applications, products and services. Hailed as the new backbone of innovation,  open source software is poised to more than double to become a $50 billion market by 2026.

“Open source solutions help simplify the process of software development by offering a more flexible way to tackle common high-tech challenges,” said Chris Zimmerman, senior analyst for market researcher FutureProof Strategies. 

“In addition to typically being easier to modify and adapt than proprietary alternatives, because they’re often supported by a large community of developers, they also often tend to evolve and grow at a significant pace and scale.”


Open Source Tool Automates IT Iinventory

Open source technology provides a basic building block for high-tech advancements and it's backed by a community of developers working around the clock to update and enhance this software. Because of its freely-modifiable nature, it can generally be extensively customized to fit individual enterprise needs or use cases – and can allow for more customization than proprietary technologies or tools from a single vendor. 

By turning to open source solutions, firms can hedge against an unknown future while also gaining the ability to adapt digital offerings more easily to work within any technology environment. They can often be molded or evolved over time to fit changing needs.

“As we look at the open hybrid cloud… it continues to evolve,” noted Ron Pacheco, director of product management at leading open source enterprise tech provider Red Hat. 

“Customers may have new regulatory compliance rules to meet… but they also have to innovate to deal with encroaching competition. So it’s imperative to put solutions into the market that these companies can readily deploy. Long gone are the days of six months’ testing prior to production.” 

Open source tools can accelerate IT infrastructure management or software development and deployment in cost-effective way that meets a company’s particular needs. They can even enable automation.


The Race to Hybrid Multicloud Interoperability

A growing host of open source data management and analytics platforms also make it simpler to gather, analyze and share information at every turn. In addition, open source team chat tools further make it possible for organizations to control the shape of internal communications, manage digital workflows, and empower teams of every size to collaborate on forward-thinking new business concepts. Small wonder that open source tools are now “used everywhere, in every industry” with 97% of codebases now containing open source elements, according to software composition analysis company Synopsis.

Moreover, because these tools are widely-available and open to modification, they also make it possible to leverage the power of crowdsourced development and the collective ingenuity of the development community at large.

“There’s always a concern with open source about support and the health of the ecosystem,” said Eric Pearce, IT systems architect at Nutanix. But when he and his team began using NetBox to build an automated IT inventory application, they found a thriving community.

“Participation is growing,” said Pearce. “You can just tell there's a real hive of activity around it.”

With over 56 million developers contributing to open source projects and more than 140 million projects listed on GitHub, the sheer magnitude of the open source community has become too large for any C-suite executive to ignore. When a global community of developers is trying to solve similar problems, it’s not unusual to request new features and have them show up within a few months — which could take years with commercial enterprise software.

EPAM Systems, Inc., a leading digital transformation services and product engineering company, reported that 99% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using open source software and 35% of all enterprise software is based on open source code, suggesting that companies see open source as a path to innovation and proprietary advantage. For Boston Consulting Group, developing and deploying open-source software is a strategic necessity in today’s fast-changing digital world.

One of its true values lies in open source software’s elasticity and the agility that it can bestow upon an IT organization, according to Zimmer. It enables the freedom to choose different applications and infrastructures to fit changing business needs. That, coupled with the collective insights of the over 50-million member community serves as rocket fuel for innovation.

“Given an ever-growing range of offerings and solutions to pick from, open source tools are rapidly becoming a go-to resource for business leaders in every industry and space,” said Zimmerman. 

“It’s easy to see why, considering that they can help streamline software development, and offer a ready accessible way for businesses to more easily standardize or adapt business services and applications for different IT environments.”


Making Databases Easier and Invisible

Alone, Kubernetes (also known as K8s), an open-source platform for containerizing computerized workloads and services that automates the deployment and management of cloud-native applications, is now used by more than half of leading companies worldwide. The efficiencies that it empowers enable global enterprises to streamline app development and rollout, and maintain cost-efficient and reliable operations, regardless of how complex their IT infrastructure is. According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, 5.6 million developers utilize it, making it one of IT development teams’ most favored technology tools. But again: It’s just one of literally millions of open source projects in development or use by organizations in every field today.

Industries Build Future on Open Source

By way of illustration, a host of banking, finance and online financial technology (fintech) providers now use open source solutions. These help optimize, streamline and automate all manner of financial services and transactions. 

A growing range of telecommunications and wireless networking leaders are also turning to open source tools as a way to reliably scale and operate 5G communications and broadband networks amid rising consumer demand. 

Vehicle and automakers of all stripes are further leveraging open source solutions to help power connected vehicles and manage the massive volumes of information passing through their sensors and tracking systems too. 

Many leading educational institutions are also leveraging open source technologies and open source research and development models to help partners in the private sector deliver more future-ready healthcare, transportation, and public services solutions.

Industry experts claim that open source is so intertwined in modern application development efforts that code owners aren’t even aware of it. As ubiquitous as open source now is, and as popular with development teams as this technology has become, it is often included as tools and components in many commercial software packages and frequently permeates IT infrastructures and applications of all sorts. How businesses utilize open source solutions is important to consider as you plot their cloud and IT strategy. 

“What you don’t know can hurt you… undiscovered open source [code] in applications can lead to costly license violations,” noted Synopsis. “These, along with security flaws… can have a significant negative impact.”


Why Red Hat Teamed with Nutanix to Unleash Open Hybrid Multicloud IT

As the company’s Zvi Levitas, EMEA and India Solutions Manager for Black Duck Audits, further explained, it can be difficult to know what’s hiding in program code. When using open source, companies need to be aware of potential technical hiccups, contractual limitations, and legal obligations.

As helpful a tool for cloud-native innovation as open source solutions can be, it’s equally important to keep a close eye on the manner and extent to which they’re being utilized across your organization. For instance: A whopping 88% of codebases contain components that hadn’t been in active development in the last two years and were behind on user updates, according to the 2022 Open Source Security and Risk Analysis Report. Two-thirds also contain open source licensing conflicts, which could put organizations at risk of potential IP-related issues or legal exposure. Bearing this in mind, it’s every bit as important to take a measured and structured approach to incorporate open source solutions across a business as it is to provide IT developers with access to the latest cloud-ready solutions. And, for that matter, the tools and training needed to make the most of them.

From helping companies deliver game-changing advances in cryptocurrency and blockchain to artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and machine learning, open source is increasingly helping organizations create new pathways to opportunity and value in every space. Helping simplify the research and development process and accelerate the speed at which organizations can spot and unlock new opportunities, it’s no wonder open source is suddenly everywhere that cloud and IT pros turn.

“It typically offers a faster method for scaling efforts up and presents a more cost-effective approach to innovation that can serve as a springboard to new opportunities on all fronts,” said Zimmerman.