Red Hat's 2020 report

Enterprise open source software is growing within innovative companies

Sarah Schlothauer
open source
© Shutterstock / Ikrill

Once commonly thought of as simply for programming hobbyists, now open source is widely used in the enterprise. Red Hat conducted an international survey, interviewing 950 IT leaders about their usage of open source code in their business. The survey revealed that open source is rising in the enterprise, and proprietary software is on the decline.

Red Hat has been at the forefront of the global open source discussion, fighting for software freedom in the U.S Supreme Court, and offering free tech products for cloud infrastructure, automation, AI, and much more. After conducting research and interviewing IT leaders from around the world, Red Hat released a report examining the state of enterprise open source in 2020.

950 IT leaders, unaware that Red Hat was the research sponsor, were surveyed about their practices and opinions on enterprise open source software.

Notably, 95% of IT leaders agree that enterprise open source software is important.

Let’s review some of the statistics revealed in Red Hat’s study.

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Proprietary software is on the decline

With the rise of open source software used for both private programming and in the enterprise, proprietary software is declining. In two years, usage of proprietary software has dropped across the board and IT decision-makers expect that this trend will continue in the next two years.

In 2020, just 42% of software used in the enterprise is proprietary, compared to 55% in 2019. IT-leaders anticipate that in two years, this number will decrease even further.

According to the report:

Maybe it doesn’t surprise you that proprietary software is losing favor—expensive and inflexible proprietary software licenses result in high capital expenditures (CapEx) and vendor lock-in. However, the rate at which organizations are abandoning proprietary software is notable, especially given how slowly change usually comes to the enterprise software space. Remarkably, enterprise open source is expected to rise from 36% to 44% over the next two years.

Top benefits & uses

The benefits of using open source software seem obvious, namely that they are, of course, freely available. However, its lack of a price tag isn’t the main thing that IT leaders love.

According to the survey, respondents believe that higher-quality software is the number one benefit of enterprise open source. FOSS software is often better than proprietary options, with better security, cloud-native technologies, and cutting edge solutions.

Top 4 benefits

  1. High-quality software
  2. Lower costs
  3. Security
  4. Works with the cloud & cloud-native tech

What important areas are businesses using FOSS for in 2020?

Top 4 usage areas

  1. Security
  2. Cloud management tools
  3. Database
  4. Big data and analytics

In particular, teams are using open source software to modernize their infrastructure, in application development, and in DevOps.

Perceived challenges

Despite the rise in usage and amount of solutions it provides, there are still some barriers and concerns about using open source code in the enterprise. While IT leaders agree that innovative companies turn to FOSS, some perceived concerns remain.

Even though security was listed as a top benefit, 38% of respondents cite that code security is a top barrier to using enterprise open source solutions and technologies.

SEE ALSO: DevOps report card: Security must be part of the software delivery cycle

Top 4 barriers

  1. Code security
  2. Support level
  3. Compatibility
  4. Lack of internal skills to manage and support

What does the future hold for FOSS? If the past is in any indication, it will continue to maintain its hold. Back in 2008, Linus Torvalds said in an interview with InformationWeek:

I think that Open Source can do better, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Source, but it’s not a crusade – it’s just a superior way of working together and generating code. It’s superior because it’s a lot more fun and because it makes cooperation much easier (no silly NDA’s or artificial barriers to innovation like in a proprietary setting), and I think Open Source is the right thing to do the same way I believe science is better than alchemy.

Read the full report from Red Hat for all of the insights and commentary.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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