A survey of 638 IT professionals finds the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is, like other slumps, driving increased adoption of open source software.
Conducted by Tidelift, a provider of commercial support and maintenance for open source projects, the survey finds 44% of respondents reporting their organizations are now more likely to use more open source. The survey also finds 42% of organizations have cut their application development budgets this year, with only 10% seeing an increase.
More than two-thirds said saving time and money is the top reason to use more open source for application development during the downturn (68%) while increasing efficiency of application development and maintenance was cited by almost half of respondents (48%).
However, reliance on open source software comes at a cost. The top two open source challenges cited are making good decisions about which components and versions to employ and making good decisions about when to upgrade components and frameworks, at 62% each. The third top challenge is identifying security vulnerabilities (49%).
Only a small fraction (18%) of organizations are extremely confident that their open source components are secure, up-to-date and well-maintained, and slightly fewer (17%) have a formal process for managing open source.
Tidelift CEO Donald Fischer said the current downturn is not all that much from previous economic slumps that lead to many organizations adopting an “open source first” approach to software. The challenge is many of those organizations don’t always appreciate the total cost of employing open source software. With each new open source project that gets added to the enterprise IT portfolio, the need to rely on external support services becomes more pressing, he said.
One thing that has changed over the years is more end user organizations are contributing to open source projects, with 83% of respondents reporting their organization contributes to open source projects. Almost half (49%) of organizations now have policies governing employee contributions to open source.
While many organizations initially view open source software as a way to reduce costs the days when the open source community was primarily focused on providing free alternatives to commercial operating systems and databases are long over. Innovations today are most often driven by open source consortiums such as the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation and the Open Infrastructure Foundation, formerly known as the OpenStack Foundation. The rate at which software can be developed by teams of contributors working on an open source project makes it difficult for an IT vendor working on a single project to keep pace.
There will, of course, always be some form of commercial software consumed by enterprise IT organizations. However, the percentage of open source software continues to rise with each passing year. The latest economic downturn is only accelerating a trend that was occurring long before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The challenge now is finding the best way to manage all that open source software at a time when IT environments are also becoming more complex.