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Get involved! DevOps open source tools are too important

Open source tools are vital to DevOps, and creating better software depends on a thoughtful and engaged community getting involved and solving problems.

Open source tooling is the default in DevOps. A 2015 DevOps Thought Leadership Survey by market researcher IDC found that a whopping 82% of early DevOps adopters said open source was "a critical or significant enabler of their DevOps strategy." What's more, the further along the survey respondents were in implementing DevOps initiatives, the more important they thought open source and DevOps open source tools were.

But what does open source really mean in this context?

It's not really about using stuff you download from the internet for free. In fact, IDC also found that most organizations have a strong preference for vendor-supported open source. Al Gillen, who is responsible for open source research and oversees development and DevOps research at IDC, told me in a podcast last February, "That has been something which has been really consistent through the years. We find that large enterprise organizations have a tendency to prefer commercially supported software."

Other IDC research has shown a preference for pure open source as opposed to what's sometimes called open core, the combination of open source components with proprietary ones.

However, even pure, supported open source isn't all created equal. Open source is ultimately about community. Strong communities beget strong software and DevOps open source tools.

Community is a complicated subject

Ultimately, it's about participation -- and participation not just by a vendor or even many vendors.

Governance and organizational structure is part of it. As Dan Kohn, executive director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, told me back in February, "One of the things they realized very early on is that a project with a neutral home is always going to achieve a higher level of collaboration. They really wanted to find a home for it where a number of different companies could participate."

It also requires establishing a virtuous cycle of contributors and project success. As Sarah Novotny, the program manager for Google's Kubernetes community, told me in another podcast, "[It's] finding adoption, growing adoption, finding contributors, growing the best tool set that they need or a platform that they need and their end users need. That is fundamental."

Windows DevOps gains ground on open source

Microsoft is modern. Now, that's a heck of sentence in 2017. In what seems like a midnight ride, the once conservative outfit has rebuilt its DevOps operation by boosting support systems and connecting with third-party tools to fill gaps in coverage.

Ultimately, it's about participation -- and participation not just by a vendor or even many vendors. Many of the strongest open source projects and DevOps open source tools also have healthy participation by the users of the software. After all, who knows their needs and problems better?

So, if you're doing DevOps and you're using open source software -- and you almost certainly are -- get involved! You'll benefit all the users of the software, including yourself.

This was last published in September 2017

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