Obscure trends in open source

Annual Best of Open Source Software Awards, affectionately known as the Bossies , was held few days back. As you browse through the Bossies, one thing that will strike you is how essential so much of open source software has become to modern computing, particularly in application development and IT infrastructure. According to Bossies awards these are the trends  relatively obscure to the world at large.

1. Open source is ground zero for technology development. Once software vendors would open source software that, to put it kindly, wasn’t worth monetizing anymore. Now open source has become the preferred way of germinating hot new technology, particularly for startups. Docker and Hadoop — and in particular their exploding ecosystems — are the most obvious examples of this, not to mention the parade of NoSQL and NewSQL databases.

2. The cloud is eating open source applications. Browse through the “best open source applications” section of the Bossies, and you’ll see that many have a SaaS or hosted option. Makes sense — even Microsoft Office 365 is a semi-cloud offering and its chief rival is clearly Google Apps. These days, many IT departments would like to avoid installing and maintaining applications locally when possible.

3. Big Internet companies are huge open source contributors. You probably know that Google came up with MapReduce and Yahoo cooked up Hadoop. Maybe you also know that Google developed the most popular JavaScript framework, AngularJS, and contributed cgroups to the Linux kernel, which eventually became Docker — today’s open source darling. But did you know that eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Twitter have each originated dozens of open source projects? Facebook, for example, is responsible for both Cassandra, one of the leading NoSQL databases, and React, a wildly popular JavaScript library.

4. GitHub is the center of the universe. The world’s leading code repository and versioning system, offered as a cloud service, now hosts 27 million projects. Sure, you’ll find most of the high-profile open source projects here — and/or at Apache. But the point is that GitHub has changed software development forever by answering a simple question: Why code it yourself if someone else has already done it and is willing to share under a liberal open source license? Odds are, you can find something close to what you need on GitHub.

5. Security has become a major sore point. Last year was a tough one for open source security. We all know the Heartbleed saga: A flaw in OpenSSL stood unaddressed for two years, and once discovered threw admins everywhere into a panic. Six months later, we were confronted with the nasty Shellshock bug, which had lurked in the open source Bash project since 1989. The rising importance and ubiquity of open source solutions make them big fat targets, so the industry has been forced to collaboratively fund projects like OpenSSL that were woefully underresourced.

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