This month, Open Source turned 20. In the IT industry, it is the prodigious young talent and we don’t give it the recognition it deserves. But why? With this being the sporting season, I wondered whether Open Source should still be playing in the junior tournament or if it was really ready for the main draw.
Technologies like sportspeople mature at different ages. In the World Cup, we saw Mbappe score in the final at 19 and England’s own hero Kieren Trippier flourish at 27. Age as a number is not the key factor. Being ready for the main stage is about strength, skill and respect.
In terms of strength, the open source community has never been in a better position. 95%+ of all software released contains Open Source components. Around the globe, public sector organisations are legally required to consider open source software first before looking at proprietary alternatives. In terms of sheer numbers, there are over a million developers actively involved in Open Source projects. We clearly have a very capable player on our hands!
Skill is the ability to do something well. If we look at the Linux kernel, there are over 20 million lines of code with contributions from over 14,000 developers. It is certainly flexible with hundreds of different form factors including IoT, mobiles, tablet, PC’s and servers. We have ultra secure distributions and specific use flavours. Beyond the OS, the diversity of the top 25 Open Source projects ranges from DevOps tools, SQL database, analytics, cyber currencies and code management to secure containers. There in excess of 6,000 projects with high or very high activity status and a range of languages. Skill is not a problem, the kid has got talent.
So, is the issue one of respect? Do we still consider Open Source to be the spotty young teenager despite the evidence to the contrary. Last month Google became a Platinum sponsor for the Linux Foundation along with AT&T, Huawei, Oracle, Microsoft and Samsung (to name just a few). Industry clearly respect Open Source work – we often hear companies vying to be recognised as “largest Open Source contributor”. Much like companies vying for young sporting superstars to wear their brands.
The problem lies with us. We are not respectful of the talent in front of us. In the main, we don’t acknowledge the image rights (Open Source licensing) and we aren’t ready for the PR nightmare which will inevitably happen when things go wrong e.g. when we don’t keep the components up to date and our security is compromised. We are not proactively managing what Open Source software means to us and giving it our loyal support.
So, at 20 years old, please take to the top step of the podium Open Source software. And to everyone clapping and cheering – let’s give it the credit, respect and management it deserves!