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Open source leads to DevOps success

Jay Lyman Research Manager, The 451 Group
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Open-source software development, particularly its core tenets of collaboration and transparency, has always been an integral part of DevOps. This is one of the reasons that DevOps tends to be an easier adjustment for developers, who tend to have experience with open-source software and its concepts and technologies, than for IT operations professionals and teams, who might see DevOps as a dramatic departure from stability through command and control.

Enterprise DevOps users have also routinely reported that the modularity and componentization of open-source software is a good fit for DevOps, which tends to involve a broader array of tools and technologies.

We often say that DevOps should not be thought of as a toolchain, but rather a tool chest that contains a broad array of software—automation tools, clouds, languages and frameworks, testing tools, containers, databases, etc.—to help make DevOps happen. Open-source software is built to work and integrate with other software components and thus helps organizations take advantage of the best tools for the job while mitigating complexity.

This isn't to say open-source software is necessarily a requirement of DevOps, but as our conversations and research indicate, open-source software does seem to serve as a catalyst for DevOps implementations. In a survey project that 451 Research conducted in 2016, researcher Donnie Berkholz and I saw evidence that, indeed, the level of open-source adoption within a DevOps implementation does correlate to DevOps success.


DevOps deployment success aligns with open source

What we found was that open-source software adoption had a significant impact on how broad and successful enterprise DevOps deployments were. Of companies with at least 60% of their DevOps portfolio as open source, a full 54% had reached the "fully deployed" DevOps state, with all of their development occurring via DevOps models.

In comparison, only 30% of the companies that had 25% to 60% of open-source tools had reached this state of DevOps adoption, while just 20% of companies with low levels of open-source usage had managed to progress to it. While at least some open-source usage is common in enterprise IT today, this research shows a clear and quantitative relationship between adoption of open-source software and DevOps success.

Our study also indicated relatively high awareness regarding open-source software in DevOps deployments. Even compared to other factors with more tangible benefits—namely rapid deployment and user-friendly APIs—open source was perceived as equally vital. This underscores the value that open-source software is producing for these businesses.

Lack of lock-in is appealing

Top-ranked benefits cited by organizations that use open-source software in their DevOps deployments included the ability to easily make modifications in-house or outsource them to third parties and the insurance that open source offers against vendors disappearing or ending support. 

While the open-source community didn't rank highly among benefits, we see open-source tools as having a leg up on the competition from the perspective of developer mindshare, given the availability and community support for open-source tools.

The research also highlighted how prevalent open-source software is in today's enterprise DevOps deployments. When we asked about DevOps tools, 60% of respondents said that 25% to 60% of their existing tools were open source; 15% of respondents had more open-source tools in place, and 26% had fewer.

Open source expands its footprint in DevOps shops

This indicates a major footprint for open-source tooling in modern DevOps deployments, and the role of open source seems to be growing. Most respondents to our 2016 survey said the overall percentage of open-source tools had grown over the past year, and they expected to continue to slightly or moderately increase that percentage over the next two years.

We would also highlight how both open-source software and DevOps enjoy generally positive connotations in the enterprise, which might be contributing to the synergy. While open-source software can represent major change and introduce some complexities, it is generally associated with flexibility, the avoidance of vendor lock-in, and cost savings.

For its part, DevOps has earned a reputation of faster releases and more efficient infrastructure management. Now, the role open source is taking in DevOps' success is becoming clear. It's a good match for the enterprise. 

The survey was conducted in the second quarter of 2016 with 419 US- and Western Europe-based respondents. Companies varied by size, from 500 to 100,000-plus employees, with a relatively even split across sizes. The verticals represented varied as well, although 17% identified as being in "high-tech products, including software, hardware, and networking." We also screened for IT decision makers and influencers for DevOps for this survey.


Image credit: Flickr

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