Recently, I presented at the SUSE Expert Day conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. I addressed two core questions: While I’ve been using the term, “the Age of Open Source”, based on the premise that we have entered this stage of technology innovation and evolution - is this really the case? And if so, what does that actually mean?
Today, open source is recognized as a core driver of competitive advantage and as a better way to build software, rather than just a disparate set of technology components spread throughout your IT infrastructure, consumed with the intent of saving money. More and more companies are designating open source as a strategic asset and developing sophisticated strategies to fully leverage its technological, operational and organizational benefits. Indeed, a number of our clients now call themselves an “open source first” company. If you’re going to deploy new software – open source must be considered!
Is this enough to say we’ve entered the ‘Age of Open Source’? Maybe. But, I’d argue that the determining factor is the nature of those companies now designating open source as strategic. It’s not blockchain, AI, robotics or any other leading-edge startups building their solutions 100% on open source; it’s not the internet companies who have realized open source is strategic for years; it’s enterprises. It’s all the financial services firms who launched the FinOS consortium to drive more open source into their industry. It is Allianz, one of the largest global insurers, open sourcing a customer engagement platform, and Walmart open sourcing a dev ops platform, and all the other large global enterprises that depend on open source for their business success - either by consuming it wholesale across their organizations or open sourcing their own software assets.
Perhaps it’s better to say, “it’s an open source world” rather than saying, “we’re in the Age of Open Source”, as the latter seems downright pretentious. As I mentioned in my talk, five years ago I began telling people that we would soon stop talking about open source because it would simply be the way we’d do computing. As it turns out, the opposite is actually the case. The conversations are much more frequent and strategic in nature as a growing number of companies are consuming or producing open source at a prodigious rate. Some clients are using more than a couple of hundred different open source components at any given time.
However, everything isn’t completely rosy in the land of open source; a few key challenges do exist. As companies adopt open source they often do so in a pell-mell manner with little thought to the long-term sustainability issues around complexity, interoperability and support. Perhaps the biggest challenge to open source’s continued dominance in innovation is the significant lack of developer talent. We cannot graduate, train or retrain developers fast enough. Wipro is training over 10,000 developers a year across 82 different open source technologies, and we’re working closely with partners like SUSE to build additional competency, but it’s simply not enough. And it is safe to say this scenario isn’t going to change any time soon.
In short, open source is driving every major technology innovation today, and that will certainly continue, but it is also a victim of its own success. I am cautiously optimistic that we are entering the ‘Age of Open Source', a grand title befitting a technology with such impact.