Shift from proprietary to open source software accelerating

The use of proprietary software in enterprises worldwide is plummeting as recognition of the importance of open source software rises.

Those are two of the key findings in the latest Red Hat-sponsored survey of open source trends which was published last week.

Written by Gordon Haff, a technology evangelist at Red Hat, the 2020 State of Enterprise Open Source report was based on 950 interviews that were conducted with IT enterprise decision makers in 11 countries around the world. They were unaware that Red Hat had sponsored the survey.

According to the report, almost all survey participants (95%) agreed that enterprise open source software was important to their organisations, with 75% stating that it was “very important” or “extremely important” – up from 69% in last year’s inaugural survey.

The percentage of decision makers who plan to increase their utilisation of enterprise open source software also increased, rising to 77% from 59% a year ago. Only 1% of respondents anticipated a decrease in their use of enterprise open source.

“As people become more familiar with and use open source software, the more they view it as strategic and the more they use it,” Haff stated.

The impact this is having on proprietary software is remarkable. In the 2019 survey, respondents indicated that just more than half (55%) of the software they used was proprietary. In the new survey, this dropped to 42% and respondents predicted that this would decline even further to 32% two years from now. Meanwhile, use of enterprise open source is expected to rise from 36% or 44% over the next two years.

Haff believed this was remarkable, given how slowly change usually occurs in the enterprise software space.

Interestingly, the survey found that the use of community-based open source was also increasing – rising from 16% of all software usage to 19% in the current survey, and projected to reach 21% within two years. While this increase is slower than that of enterprise open source, it nevertheless follows the same upward trend.

Asked about the benefits of using enterprise open source, respondents continued to refer to the lower total cost of ownership. However, while this had ranked as the top benefit in 2019, it was topped by “higher quality of software” in the latest survey’s benefits ratings.

Security was ranked third, followed by “designed to work in cloud, cloud-native technologies” in fourth position, up from eighth in the previous year.

“This increase shows how important the open source development model is to new and rising categories of software – including cloud native software,” Haff commented. “These new categories of software are largely a product of open source development – and enterprises are adjusting their plans. Among organisations that have an in-house application development team, 56% expect to increase their use of containers, a key cloud-native technology, in the next 12 months.”

While few organisations are able to move away from legacy IT investments – at least not without suffering major disruptions – the survey found that the combination of cloud-native apps and cloud-enabled ones already outnumber legacy applications by 61% to 39%.

Nevertheless, Haff concluded that although it appears that IT decision makers were thinking deeply about their application portfolios, there was no single “right” approach to how or whether to make changes.

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