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October 8, 2020

Pandemic Boosting Open Source Adoption

(Wright Studio/Shutterstock)

It turns out that economic downturns are good for open source software adoption, a new vendor survey finds.

The open developer community was already thriving when the pandemic whacked the global economy at the beginning of 2020. A poll of more than 600 developers released this week finds that still more are relying in open source software as a way to do more with less in tough economic times.

A key reason is widespread reductions in application development budgets, pushing nearly half of the companies surveyed toward greater use of open source software.  More than two-thirds said the shift to open source was driven by the need to save time and money during the COVID-19 downturn.

“As the long-term move towards open source continues, our data shows that the recent economic downturn may be an accelerant,” said Donald Fischer, CEO of Boston-based Tidelift, which supports “community-led” open source application development.

“This finding continues a trend that began after the recession of the early 2000s and continued after the financial crisis of 2008,” Fischer added. “Organizations turn to open source in tough economic times because it helps them reduce costs and improves their ability to innovate.”

Open source software allows developers to do more with less, but security experts note that harried code jockeys often push applications live knowing they contain vulnerabilities. Pinching pennies by using open source alternatives without first vetting results could exacerbate application security threats.

Indeed, the Tidelift survey reveals that confidence in an organization’s open source practices declines as company size grows. Just 18 percent of those polled were “extremely confident” their open components are secure, up-to-date and well maintained.

The Tidelift results confirm earlier assessments that the pandemic is fueling an enterprise shift to open source software. A software supply chain report released in August estimated a record 1.5 trillion downloads this year of open source components and containers.

Meanwhile, the latest assessment found that enterprise management of open source tools remains a “free-for-all,” with only 17 percent reporting a formal process for managing open source development.

The survey also queried developers regarding their preferred programming languages. While Python continues to grow in popularity, the Tidelift analysis found that more than three-quarters of companies contacted still use JavaScript. Python ranked second, cited by 52 percent of respondents.

A separate user poll released in February found Python growing in popularity as more developers focus on machine learning projects.

Boston-based Tidelift said it conducted its survey of open source preferences between May 28 and July 4, 2020. Survey results are here.