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6 open source trends that will shape IT Ops

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Lauren Gibbons Paul, Freelance writer

IT Ops should pay special attention to open source this year. Because of the growing use of the open-source platforms Docker and Kubernetes, over 3.5 million applications have been placed in containers that use Docker technology, and over 37 billion containerized applications have been downloaded, according to Docker.

That means open source will become an area to learn more about, but chances are you already are familiar. Open source has retained its spot as a popular operating system in enterprise IT, with even more growth predicted. Red Hat says its version of Linux maintained an almost 33% share of worldwide server operating environments in 2017, coming in behind only Microsoft's Windows Server.

Linux is also the only endpoint operating system growing globally, according to an August 2018 IDC InfoBrief sponsored by IGEL, which sells endpoint management software. The growth in IoT devices will drive the expansion of Linux, according to the report, since many virtual appliances are Linux-based. Among the reasons: Linux distributions for endpoint devices can be customized to provide direct updates and patches tested for stability by endpoint developers, boosting confidence in performance optimization and security.

Furthermore, Linux is now available on Microsoft Azure, and the top 500 supercomputers now all run Linux. In addition, Microsoft announced plans to make its 60,000 patents open source as part of the Open Invention Network, to help protect Linux vendors from patent lawsuits.

2019 is shaping up to be another big year for open source. Here are the top trends that practitioners and analysts are forecasting, and what that means for your IT Ops team.

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1. Cloud adoption will continue to drive open source

Cloud adoption is still catching on, and much of that involves open source. Case in point: Capital One moved to the public cloud a few years ago, and innovation has shifted to open source, according to Bernard Golden, vice president of cloud strategy at the financial services firm, which follows agile development practices and DevOps.

Open source is being used to scale the company's cloud apps, Golden said. The traditional software model is to buy a license to cover peak loads on every server. At the scale of cloud, there is no way for the old model to be economic, he said.

"You couldn't have cloud without open source."
Bernard Golden

Also, cloud-based applications commonly experience more erratic workloads than do traditional applications, Golden added. If you had to buy software for each server that would be running at peak load, you would have to make a significant investment in software that might only run 20% of the time or even less, which is not a practical proposition.

2. Open source will fuel innovation

Today's businesses need to deliver highly differentiated, personalized customer experiences to stand out. What's more, they need to be able to deliver a unified experience across all touchpoints.

To meet these demands, an increasing number of businesses will turn to open source as a way to fuel innovation and put control back in the hands of end users, said Max Yekaterynenko, director of engineering for Adobe's Magento open-source e-commerce platform. He's focused on managing the Magento open-source community.

"Open source allows businesses to create unique, end-to-end experiences and control their own destiny while significantly reducing the total cost of ownership and ongoing support costs."
Max Yekaterynenko

Using open source removes the barrier of licensing fees and the learning curve around a closed proprietary language, he added. "This allows our community to essentially tinker with elements of our platform, which in turn generates innovation, which they can then feed back into the ecosystem."

For example, when Amazon’s One-Click patent expired in September 2017, Magento created "Instant Purchase" checkout, making Amazon checkout up to 90% faster. "On the day the patent expired, we submitted a pull request for the one-click feature to be added to the core code base of the Magento 2 platform, so there would be no gap in functionality for customers," said Yekaterynenko.

Capital One’s Golden also believes the pace of innovation is faster with open source than with proprietary software. Because the broader community works on Linux projects, as opposed to just one vendor, innovations come to light faster than they otherwise would. Contributors rapidly build on each other's ideas in a spirit of competition that propels the solution forward. The benefits accrue rapidly to the whole community.

For its part, Capital One has created and distributed the open-source applications CloudCustodian and Hygieia, with growing communities of outside organizations using and contributing to them. With so many developers working together, innovations accrue rapidly, says Golden.

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3. Big-name vendors will keep investing in open source

As in 2018, software vendors will continue to make moves that change the open-source landscape. In particular, it will be interesting to watch what IBM does with its late-2018 acquisition of Red Hat, said Michael Azoff, a distinguished analyst at Ovum. "So far, IBM says Red Hat will be an independent business unit, and it may continue to run it as such, being such a distinctive operation and different culture from the mother ship," he said. Or Red Hat could be assimilated into IBM’s identity more closely; only time will tell.

The same applies to Microsoft and its 2018 purchase of open-source giant GitHub. Will the behemoth let its new business unit continue as before, or does it have other plans?

"It makes sense for Microsoft to disturb it as little as possible while offering additional services based on the massive data that exists in GitHub—information that can be fed back to users for everyone's benefit, plus enterprise premium offerings to monetize it."
Michael Azoff

Microsoft paid a cool $7.5 billion for GitHub and may be looking to recoup some of that investment. In any case, expect the biggest names in software to keep putting money into open source.

4. Expect continued security improvements

Information security was one of the most important themes of 2018, as some infamous and costly vulnerabilities came to light across the industry. Open-source security has long been considered better than that of closed systems, in part because of the transparency of every component. This year expect to see more emphasis on security in open source, as well as across the industry in general, said Wim Coekaerts, senior vice president of operating systems and virtualization engineering at Oracle.

With more and more cloud-native and container deployments, "security has to be a central focus, part of application rollouts, and not an afterthought," said Coekaerts. This maps into the growing DevSecOps movement in many companies

5. Gaps in open-source model head for a showdown

Pushback from the open-source community against large cloud providers that monetize open-source innovations but don't contribute will continue this year, said Manish Gupta, chief marketing officer for Redis Labs. Developers recognize the negative impact that cloud providers' poaching has had on the open-source ecosystem.

"We will continue to see this push for new licensing models and approaches in an effort to maintain the give-and-get ethos of the open-source marketplace. We anticipate the voice of the open-source community will become louder over time, sparking a change to the way that large cloud providers engage with open-source projects."
Manish Gupta

6. Key open-source projects will come of age

The etcd project is at the core of every high-availability Kubernetes deployment. It is fully open source, and is now under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's (CNCF) governance.

Brandon Philips, CTO of CoreOS at Red Hat, said he expects to see many new open-source projects in 2019, and that the continuing maturity of projects like etcd will have the biggest impact for companies in 2019.

Further, Kubernetes itself is moving into the third generation of innovation, as the full automation of both platform operations and application deployments moves into full swing.

Maturity of other technologies converges

This year, disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain will go from nice-to-have ideas to become a foundational part of digital transformation strategies for enterprises across virtually all industries. To stay ahead of the innovation curve, businesses will need to devote more funding and resources toward open-source projects in these areas, Adobe's Yekaterynenko said, since the most innovative software development is coming from open platforms and communities.

Overall, open source is shaping up to be a major theme for IT Ops this year, with lots of developments that will affect enterprise IT. Watch this space.

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