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Reflecting on the Open Source Landscape & What the Future Holds

Reflecting on the Open Source Landscape & What the Future Holds

A new year begs the opportunity for reflection and what the future may bring. When we think about the open source landscape, another year passes where we continue to see widespread adoption of open source across enterprises, due in part to the benefits open source provides. For example, the Linux Foundation’s World of Open Source Global Spotlight 2023 Report shows that on a global average, 90% of organizations surveyed use open source at a moderate, significant or widespread level – a glowing indication of open source embedding itself into companies big and small.

The benefits for open source are significant – from reduced vendor lock-in to accelerated time-to-market and lower software costs. But one shift we are experiencing and can expect to see even more of in 2024 is open source being regarded as a vital mechanism to the success of industry. Where open source was previously a ‘nice to have,’ outside of the tech vertical, it’s now playing a significant role in terms of the value it can provide to businesses irrespective of industry. We’re not just talking about the benefits mentioned previously but the idea that open source can deliver on OKRs and wider organizational goals — such as talent acquisition, productivity and innovation — that other business functions and teams have historically and continue to be expected to measure and contribute toward.

But how do organizations measure this type of value? The reality is that many companies are still tracking their open source contributions in a piecemeal fashion. Businesses are relying on whatever mechanisms they have internally to try to gain visibility into what employees are contributing to and where they are contributing to — or even more sporadically through intermittent reviews of code repositories and public-facing platforms. Plus, without a formal open source policy in place, this makes it even more challenging for enterprises. In the Linux Foundation report mentioned previously, 41% of respondents agreed that OSS use in their organization is limited by a lack of a clear policy or training and guidance to support on how to use open source. In more regulated industries, like financial services, security risks are a significant concern that limit open source adoption before even considering upstream contribution. Furthermore, with the emergence of generative AI and other disruptive technologies, industries such as financial services that were previously hesitant to embrace open source are now realizing the opportunities it brings and the risk they face in falling behind if they don’t implement more formal open source policies and consequent adoption.

As organizations look to embrace the value that open source can provide, it can be difficult to know where to start. Consider first looking at your tech stack and infrastructure. What open source software is being consumed? What open source software is your organization dependent on? A simple internal audit can provide you with an initial foray into measuring consumption and possible contributions while also gaining more visibility into the state of open source across your enterprise. This analysis provides you the ability to select open source components more strategically and carefully advise employees on where they should be spending their time contributing — for example, on dependencies and libraries that your internal systems are already relying on versus simply encouraging any open source contributions in the community.

It makes sense then to explore tooling to aggregate your open source contributions across all your known open source platform and sources. GitHub, for instance, has the largest home for all open source projects and codebases. Tracking and monitoring such data can provide you with the visibility into who is contributing under your corporate domain and where they are contributing into. Not only can this information provide your organization with piece of mind to reduce risk (such as employees leaking confidential information, ways of working or intellectual property) but these insights can also help you track and measure how open source is an enabler of business value for your organization — thinking back to the objectives of delivering against OKRs and strategic business goals.

As we look ahead to the future, 2024 could be a year of pivotal change for the open source community. One where the conversation shifts from talking about pure benefits of open source and open source adoption to one of real business change enabled through an open embrace – from addressing talent acquisition and retention challenges, increasing productivity, accelerating innovation and helping tackle sustainability challenges.


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