Change and growth

Three trends in enterprise open source

Joanna Hodgson
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What is the current state of enterprise open source, and how has this been changed with the pace of digital transformation? This article looks at Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report and digs into the top trends in the enterprise open source community during this time of change and growth.

For many organisations, the pandemic served as a drastic paradigm shift that forced them to figure out how to work remotely. This has meant that the pace of digital transformation has massively accelerated, which in turn has seen the cultural and technical environments of organisations radically overhauled.

As a result there has been an enormous growth rate in adoption of open source processes and technologies, with open source innovation now serving as a blueprint for others in the industry. A recent report by the non-profit OpenUK found that, when hiring, 51% UK companies were actively looking for open source skills in 2021, with the UK ranking fifth in the world for open source contributions.

This year, Red Hat’s State of Enterprise Open Source report took a look at some top trends in the enterprise
open source community at this time of change and growth. Here are a few key insights from our survey of IT leaders that I find particularly interesting.

Record demand for Kubernetes skills

The 2010s saw the rise of containers, Kubernetes, and a now-flourishing ecosystem of cloud-native tools and applications. Despite being one of open source’s biggest success stories in modern times, the rate of adoption for Kubernetes is still astonishing. We’ve found that 70% of respondents now work for organisations that use Kubernetes – quite an adoption rate for a technology that’s only eight years old.

However, the speed at which Kubernetes has risen has produced some pain points. The demand for containers and Kubernetes is significantly ahead of the supply of talent, with 43% of respondents citing a lack of familiarity or skills within their organisation as a major barrier to adopting container technology.

The container skills crunch is only likely to get more difficult in the coming year, as a third of respondents plan to significantly increase their use of containers over the next 12 months. However, many organisations are already implementing strategic plans to plug the Kubernetes skill gap by taking steps such as upskilling current IT staff, and creating centralised IT teams to encourage cross-pollination of knowledge across the organisation.

Security is a top plus

Everyone who’s worked in the IT industry over the last couple of decades remembers the days when mainstream perceptions around the security of open source software were broadly negative. Even as recently as ten years ago, many would be quick to label the use of open source within an enterprise’s tech stack as a potential security weakness.

Those days are long gone. Currently, 89% of IT leaders surveyed hold the view that open source is as secure as proprietary software – if not more secure. Interestingly, this shift is not due to a “more eyes” view of open source, that emphasises the number of opportunities there are to proofread open source code.

Rather, the driver of open source’s security trust is due to open source code being well-tested for in-house applications, with 55% of respondents citing this as their main reason for confidence in its security. This was closely followed by the fact that open source security patches are well-documented and can be easily obtained, which 52% of respondents cited as a reason they chose open source software.

Community contributions matter

For the first time, we’ve found that enterprises consider it critical that vendors and partners engage with open source communities. This is encapsulated in a stark statistic: 82% of IT leaders surveyed are more likely to select vendors who contribute to upstream open source communities.

Why is this? 49% believe that such vendors are more familiar with the underlying code and processes, and 49% of respondents also believe that these vendors help sustain the communities that generate their code.

The rise of this attitude is a win for both the enterprise and community open source. Recognising the importance of upstream communities leads to a more resilient ecosystem, and also improved lines of communication between open source developers and end-users.

Amid the shift caused by the pandemic, both flexible and reliable software has become critical for almost every organisation’s IT department. Ultimately, the products of open source collaboration are becoming ever-more vital and reliable components of the enterprise IT stack. At the same time, the contributions of the open source community are rightly being recognised as crucial by enterprises the world over – to the benefit of both developers and users alike.


Joanna Hodgson

Joanna is a technologist at heart and is fascinated by how technology can be applied to business and social challenges. She has worked in the IT industry for more than 25 years, including senior business and technical leadership roles. At Red Hat, Joanna leads the UK team in helping clients solve business challenges with innovative open source software solutions.

Joanna is a coach and mentor to many IT professionals and loves this part of her role. She believes the IT industry must attract a more diverse workforce to deliver its full potential and actively encourages women to enter and remain in technical careers. She sees the opportunity that an open culture and open leadership has to offer in this regard and is really pleased to be part of realising that.

Joanna is mother to a lively daughter who keeps her and her husband on their toes.

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