open source

Q&A with Black Duck Software’s CEO on Where Open Source is Headed

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Editor’s Note: North Bridge Venture Partners, together with Black Duck Software and 451 Research, recently released findings from their 6th annual Future of Open Source Survey. In this interview, Black Duck’s CEO, Tim Yeaton, discusses the open source trends and future direction his company is seeing in the market and shares insights from the survey findings.

SandHill.com: Where does Black Duck see changes coming up in open source over the next two or three years? Where is open source going?

Tim Yeaton: From our direct experience at Black Duck interacting with over 1,000 customers from around the world, without question, the most significant trend we see is the accelerated enterprise adoption of open source, which is corroborated by the results of the survey.

A second change is what we describe as “super communities.” Think of a super community as a self-organized ecosystem of companies coming together in a particular industry to collaborate on a core platform, built using open source software.

SandHill.com: Please describe an example of a super community.

Tim Yeaton: The GENIVI Alliance (short for Geneva In-Vehicle Infotainment) is an organization of about 165 companies participating in an automotive ecosystem that decided to come together and collaborate on building a next-generation open source-based in-vehicle infotainment operating platform. This super community intends to provide a broad platform for adoption and innovation in much the same way Android device manufacturers collaborate and innovate on a common core platform.

I think GENIVI is quite instructive regarding how a lot of verticals might play out. They will consolidate and stop re-inventing the wheel at a core platform level; instead, they’ll collaborate – and rely on open source code for their platforms – and then differentiate and add value on top of the platform. We’re starting to see indications that this might happen in the financial services area, defense, aerospace and marine electronics to name a few.

SandHill.com: What other trends are you noting about where open source is headed over the next couple of years?

Tim Yeaton: One interesting trend we’re starting to see in our direct client work, which was not included in the survey, is often referred to as “innersourcing.” It’s the application of open source style of collaborative, meritocratic development to an internal organization. It’s not about the code necessarily; it’s about the collaborative process – sharing, peer review and meritocracy in terms of contributing to internal projects. A lot of large organizations want to use more collaborative open source-style development strategies inside their firewall. They want cross-pollination across divisions and departments inside an organization, to improve quality and encourage code reuse.

I gave some industry presentations in Asia a few weeks ago, and this was one of the themes that I shared. Even in companies that are only going to use maybe 20 percent of open source code, they have seen value in an internal collaborative processes like that in open source communities.

SandHill.com: Were there any findings in this year’s Future of Open Source Survey that surprised you?

Tim Yeaton: The one that was the biggest surprise to me, because we’ve been tracking it for a long time, was the high degree of adoption respondents expect in the next three to five years. Almost 80 percent of product companies (software vendors and electronics vendors) expect they will use over 50 percent open source and, in some cases, over 75 percent in their overall code bases in this timeframe. The trend line for them has been consistently pointed in that direction for several years.

This trend holds in enterprise IT and development teams in large companies building internal apps as well. They, too, expect to be using over 50 percent open source in five years. This is the first year of the survey in which we’ve seen an expectation for significant consumption on their part. This was the most surprising aspect of the survey – how far internal development within enterprise IT expects to go regarding open source use.

SandHill.com: What about adoption hindrances? I noticed that 49 percent of the survey respondents reported that they are unfamiliar with open source solutions and 47 percent said they have a lack of internal technical skills. Is this different from prior years’ surveys?

Tim Yeaton: Three years ago, the things that popped to the top of the list about what limits open source adoption were a) complying with open source licenses and b) the quality of the technology. Over the last couple of years as companies gained a high degree of comfort with open source technology, their issues shifted to two main concerns today:

  1. How will their developers navigate the open source community process and ecosystem?
  2. How will they identify and make good selections around components?

Our customer experiences at Black Duck mirror the survey. A lot of enterprise software development organizations ask us to help them figure out strategies for using open source at scale.

SandHill.com: How can software vendors help enterprise IT with these challenges to adoption?

Tim Yeaton: A couple of years ago when we first recognized this trend, we made a decision to help solve that part of the problem for the entire open source community. We now support two websites with information for developers: Ohloh.net, which is like a social networking site for developers, and Koders.com, which is the number-one code search site on the Web.

All the information is free and readily accessible because, in the end, that’s better for the industry. And the better equipped enterprise developers are, the more successful enterprises will be at scaling open source use.

SandHill.com: The survey findings this year pointed to significant innovation taking place in open source.

Tim Yeaton: The degree of original innovation that’s happening around open source is a significant trend. Five or 10 years ago, a lot of the effort going into open source was spent creating low-cost alternatives to commercial and proprietary software components. What we’re seeing today is more and more original innovation happening directly in and around open source. Mobile, social networking platforms, cloud infrastructure and Big Data each have significant grounding in open source innovation.

Open source in mobile is especially hot. Our Black Duck KnowledgeBase reveals that the number of new open source projects for mobile doubled each of the last three years. I think it now totals about 18,000 projects. It went from 2,000 in 2009 to 4,000 in 2010. Then another 10,000 mobile projects were added in 2011.The rate of growth of mobile projects is astronomical. We’re able to sort them by target platforms and, of the ones that identify a target platform, about three-fourths of those projects are Android specific; another 20 percent are iOS specific.

SandHill.com: In addition to the increased adoption rate among enterprises, this year’s survey found an uptick in investor interest in open source.

Tim Yeaton: Yes, the level of confidence that investors have around investing in the open source space is very heartening. Even in a continued tough economic climate, the survey found an increase of 49 percent in dollars invested in open source companies.

We’re seeing the same phenomenon at Black Duck. We raised a round of financing last fall – not because we needed it but because we saw a great opportunity to accelerate our own efforts. Frankly, we were overwhelmed with the number of investors interested in participating in that investment. The level of interest in what we’re doing as a company to enable open source adoption was quite high.

SandHill.com: What trends have you observed at Black Duck regarding open source’s impact on outsourcing?

Tim Yeaton: We’re working with a number of the world’s largest systems integrators and offshore development providers. Many offshore development organizations are using a lot of open source technology because it means their development efforts will be more efficient and less costly for their customers. Also, they are using open source because they want to be able to articulate what’s in the code and what they pulled together in the final solution that they deliver to customers.

SandHill was a collaborator on the 6th annual Future of Open Source Survey conducted by North Bridge Venture Partners, Black Duck Software and 451 Research. Click here to view a slide presentation of survey findings.

Tim Yeaton is CEO of Black Duck Software. He has 30 years of software and technology management experience and was named one of the Most Influential People in the Open Source Industry by Mindtouch. Prior to joining Black Duck, he was CMO at EqualLogic, vice president of Dell’s Nashua (N.H.) Design Center, and SVP of Worldwide Marketing & General Manager of Enterprise Products at Red Hat, where he was instrumental in expanding into developer and middleware markets with acquisitions of JBoss and MetaMatrix.

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com

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