The rise and rise of open source

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The annual Future of Open Source survey confirms what we all suspected: Open source has won

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The results from the annual Future Of Open Source survey are in, and they confirm everything we already knew: Open source is now the default.

The survey reports that 78 percent of its respondents are now running their businesses with open source software, and two-thirds are building software for their customers that’s based on open source software. More significant, the percentage of respondents actually participating in open source projects has increased from 50 percent to 64 percent, and 88 percent say they expect to contribute to projects within the next three years.

Companies are wising up to the power of contribution and cooperation. Those who engage benefit from lower friction in their ongoing operations -- reducing the burden of regressions, improving the flow of innovation and sharing the task of security review. It’s the ultimate IT lubricant in the Internet age.

It’s hard to imagine a stronger signal that open source is now the dominant, mainstream approach to originating software for the enterprise. Proprietary software will always be with us, especially legacy applications with lock-in that grows deeper each year. Executives will continue to put off the inevitable day when they will need to pay the huge ransom to their proprietary vendors to escape the lock-in and move to modern, modular, open source solutions.

But open source has transformed from the pariah Microsoft condemned as “cancer” in 2001 to the default that proprietary businesses have to pretend to embrace or even be in 2015. Businesses have moved beyond seeing open source as a way to avoid license fees and are seeing its real value: putting architectural control back in their own hands, gaining new choices for consulting, service, and support, then regaining negotiating power with their vendors. Today’s business masters of open source indeed see reduced costs, but they arise from re-empowerment, not from license fee avoidance.

InfoWorld has been publishing a special interest column on open source issues for many years. It has covered a broad range of issues and endeavors, with insider insight and breaking news, as well as analysis and philosophy. When the column started, open source was a specialist topic, considered risky by the average CxO.

If you look at InfoWorld today, it’s clear that’s changed. Pretty much every story is about open source -- even the ones related to Microsoft! There’s still room for specialist analysis, but InfoWorld’s team doesn’t think the publication needs a specific column dedicated to open source any more; the whole publication is effectively Open Sources, so this is the last in the series.

I’m not going away, though. From my vantage point inside the open source community -- currently enabling Wipro’s open source evolution -- I regularly see new developments, transformations, and teachable moments that I’ll write about for InfoWorld. But from this point on, open source is mainstream coverage, not special interest.

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