Nearly all IT professionals (95%) agree that enterprise open source is important, with 75% of professionals citing it as “extremely important,” a Red Hat report found. Enterprise open source isn’t just a trend, but a growing movement, as 77% of respondents expect their organizations to increase open source use in the next 12 months.

“Historically, open source was seen [mainly] in web infrastructure,” said Gordon Haff, Red Hat technology evangelist. “What you’re seeing today is how open source is becoming a space where companies and individuals come together to collaborate in new areas of technology.”

SEE: Open source vs. proprietary software: A look at the pros and cons (TechRepublic Premium)

Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report, releasedTuesday, assessed the global shifts in enterprise use of open source. The verdict is overwhelmingly positive: Only 1% of respondents predicted enterprise open source would decrease in the next year.

What are the open source uses?

Organizations have found open source, software or a project that is publicly accessible allowing anyone to modify or share it, to be an efficient and and effective mode of collaboration; and as more technologies develop, more use cases for open source will, too, Haff said.

The report found that enterprise open source is being used most in security (52%), cloud (51%), database (49%), and big data and analytics (47%)—technologies that used to be supported by proprietary software.

However, proprietary software is plummeting: Last year, more than half of the report’s respondents (55%) said they used proprietary software, but this year the number dropped to 42%.

Not only is proprietary software more expensive, it isn’t nearly as beneficial on the collaboration front. While some companies still use proprietary software, many of these services are based on an open-source foundation, which is indicative of how pervasive open source is becoming, Haff said.

Within enterprises, open source is specifically being used most for IT infrastructure modernization (60%), application development (53%) and DevOps (52%), the report found.

The benefits of open source aren’t limited to collaboration and cost, according to the report. Higher quality software (33%), lower total cost of ownership (30%), better security (29%), and designed-to-work-in-cloud native technologies (28%) were other significant perks.

With how popular cloud and cloud-native technologies have become, open source’s ability to function in those spaces is huge.

An increase in containers

The report also found that increased cloud use has resulted in more containers: 56% of respondents said their organizations will increase container usage in the next 12 months. This movement toward containers highlights the growing prioritization of collaboration in the enterprise, Haff said.

“One of the things that you’ve seen in the container space—along with Kubernetes, service meshes, performance monitoring, etc.— is that all of these companies are collaborating in this cloud native space,” Haff said.

This collaboration is allowing organizations to internally put together complete cloud data stacks, which is something that would’ve been very difficult with the pace of proprietary software, Haff added.

“If you look at the sheer size and breadth of the cloud native ecosystem, there wouldn’t be enough lawyers to hold the contracts between companies partnering if this was trying to be done with proprietary software,” he said.

What are the barriers of open source?

While open source unlocks many capabilities, the report did cite some disadvantages to the software.

Respondents were most concerned with security of the code (38%), level of support (37%), compatibility (34%), and lack of internal skills to manage and support (33%).

While these concerns are reasonable, Haff said most users have these same issues with the support of software in general. These worries should be noted, but aren’t necessarily unique to open source.

What is the future of legacy applications?

With modern applications growing in popularity, legacy applications are being left behind, the report found.

The combination of cloud-native applications and cloud-enabled ones already outnumber legacy applications at 61% and 39%, respectively. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all legacy systems need to be replaced, however.

“Companies are doing different things for different parts of their infrastructure,” Haff said. “If there’s an app that’s running fine today and there’s no particular reason to update it, then there’s no reason to go to a lot of work to change just for the sake of change.”

Within organizations, respondents said 31% of applications are being left as-is. But some organizations are retaining the legacy apps, rearchitecting or modernizing them.

“On the other hand, sometimes the best approach is to say, ‘That application was good last decade or it was good for a couple of decades ago, but let’s stop putting [bandages] on these things. Let’s just start over and do a completely cloud native re-implementation that meets our needs today,'” Haff said.

Overall, the companies using open source are the most innovative, according to the report. The majority (86%) of respondents said they believe enterprise open source is being used by the most innovative companies, mainly because of the collaborative aspect of the software.

“If you go back even before open-source software, there has been quite a bit of research into how innovation happens,” Haff said. “What that research shows is that whether or not there are formal structures to do so, a lot of innovation happens when information sharing goes on.”

For more, check out How to set up secure credential storage for Docker on TechRepublic.


For the report, Red hat interviewed 950 IT leaders worldwide. The geographic breakdown included 400 respondents from the US, 150 from the UK, 250 from Latin America, and 150 from English-speaking Asia Pacific.

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