By Ben Slater, Chief Product Officer at Instaclustr
Open source continues to win more enterprise converts - and for good reason. The performance, cost, and scalability benefits of open source solutions across the stack going to grow through active community support and collaboration. 2021 won't buck that trend. Rather, expect open source - particularly those solutions used in their pure, unadulterated, and non-proprietary open source form - to be crucial pieces within even more enterprises' architectures.
1) Open source adoption will continue at elevated levels in 2021, even after the end of the pandemic.
COVID-19 has spurred a noticeable rise in open source adoption, as shifting economic conditions led many enterprises to take a fresh look at how their IT budgets could be made more efficient. But expect this increased pace of adoption to continue, even as the pandemic wanes - mercifully - and economic conditions become less volatile.
Across many fronts, the pandemic has really just expedited shifts that have long been inevitable. Clear examples of this range from the transition to more expansive work-from-home practices, to movie premieres shifting to streaming platforms, to increased use of food delivery services. Even if the pandemic had never occurred, these changes still would have, due to the more direct and efficient experiences they provide. The enterprise shift to open source fits this category of inevitable trends. Look for the superior software quality, continuous innovation, and stark cost efficiency advantages that open technologies provide to drive a sustained increase in enterprise adoption going forward.
2) True open source technologies will continue to eat away at "open core" variations.
In the battle between 100% open source solutions and "open core" offerings that put restraints on top of those open technologies to produce proprietary commercial products, true open source retains inherent advantages. Any features that are valuable to a piece of open core software are naturally demanded and reproduced by the community supporting the pure open source version. Through this process, mature open source projects leave less and less opportunities for open core vendors to set their products apart and to justify the expensive licenses they're asking for. As the rise in enterprise open source adoption continues over the next year and open source communities grow in strength, this natural process by which open core solutions are pressed into irrelevance will only accelerate.
3) Open source software will be more secure than ever.
The structure of open source communities to apply myriad eyeballs and a vast diversity of talents and perspectives to enhancing software security is remarkable, and will only become more so. In contrast, teams of hired developers responsible for securing proprietary software wield far fewer resources, and are less capable when it comes to recognizing and addressing vulnerabilities and other issues. As the outcomes resulting from this disparity only become starker, expect open source software's reputation for security and reliability to continue to grow - an especially big draw for new enterprise adherents.
4) Enterprises will become savvier at vetting open source options.
Enterprises face considerable risks if they make the mistake of committing to the wrong solutions - open source or otherwise. In situations where enterprises don't truly control their own code, as with many open core solutions, the risks of vendor and technical lock-in are especially high. Enterprises are thus highly incentivized to avoid these risks, and as a whole will become more capable of accurately vetting their options (even as some undoubtedly learn lessons the hard way).
As best practices, expect enterprises to develop savvy eyes for carefully vetting open source licensing terms, selecting open source software governed by respected non-profit foundations (such as the Apache Foundation), and assessing the strengths of specific open source communities. By understanding the business motivations of large commercial entities within communities and whether or not they're capable of exerting undue influence, enterprises can avoid committing to solutions that may not develop in alignment with their best interests. Enterprises will become more knowledgeable in foreseeing the pitfalls of open core products as well, and in distinguishing the disadvantages of these offerings versus pure open source solutions.