Bossies 2014

Bossies 2014: The Best of Open Source Software Awards

Discover the best: 130 open source projects in six categories, handpicked by InfoWorld editors and contributors

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Jane Van Ginkel

Bossies 2014

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If you hadn't noticed, we're in the midst of an incredible boom in enterprise technology development -- and open source is leading it. You're unlikely to find better proof of that dynamism than this year's Best of Open Source Software Awards, affectionately known as the Bossies.

Have a look for yourself. The result of months of exploration and evaluation, plus the recommendations of many expert contributors, the 2014 Bossies cover more than 130 award winners in six categories:

The best open source applications
The best open source application development tools
The best open source data center and cloud software
The best open source desktop and mobile software
The best open source networking and security software
The best open source big data tools

This year's Bossies were more exciting to pull together than ever, simply because we had so many new candidates to choose from. Why the embarrassment of riches? Because open source has become the preferred way to bring innovation to market.

The business motivation for this is clear: Once software becomes entrenched in an organization, it's hard to dislodge -- particularly proprietary software, where sales reps and contracts do everything to maintain the status quo. One way to get customers to consider switching vendors is to offer production software under an open source license -- not just demos, but even pilot programs can be conducted at low risk.

When you're talking about individual user adoption, the open source evaluation process is downright pain-free. Take the biggest chunk of this year's awards, the application development tools section. Thanks in part to the social coding trend, developers have become viral marketers, creating a constant churn of open source recommendations from peer to peer. It's safe to say that open source now absolutely dominates application development tools.

As a consequence of this hive mentality, when great open source solutions surface, they spread like wildfire and quickly inspire swarms of add-ons that pile on value -- many of them built by engaged developer-customers. The Docker ecosystem is a prime example and figures prominently in this year's Bossies.

Clearly, open source is changing the way software is procured. In the era of monster contracts and a few monster software vendors, upper IT management called all the shots and passed down applications and tools the rest of the organization had to live with. Open source is helping to crack that monolith, so businesses and individuals can make their own software decisions.

Make no mistake: Although open source incurs less capital expense, it's not free -- nor even necessarily cheap compared to proprietary software. Generally speaking, at scale, open source solutions require a higher level of effort and expertise to implement and maintain. Open source's rapid pace of innovation often results in more frequent updates, which means a closer eye on dependencies. In addition, professional services and commercial open source contracts result in significant cost.

The real advantage today is that adopting open source plugs you into a vibrant, collaborative innovation engine, driven by a new generation of developers who treat open source as an assumption rather than a "movement" to escape evil empires. Thanks to the efforts of our editors and expert contributors, the 2014 Bossies offer a comprehensive guide to the best products resulting from a remarkable surge in development activity.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.