In 1997, software developer Eric Raymond published an influential essay called The Cathedral and the Bazaar in which he laid out foundational ideas for many open source projects that followed. Among other things, Raymond argued that if “you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.”
Looking ahead to 2018, interesting problems will continue to find open source solutions.
1. Open Source Blockchain Projects Will Take Off
Blockchain technologies are presently infiltrating financial markets but hold the potential to disrupt a host of business processes across industries. Blockchain is unique because it leverages untrustworthy communication channels to create trust between parties that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily cooperate with each other. This is relevant for businesses ranging from lending libraries to healthcare, and it has the potential to truly revolutionize business transactions of all kinds. Specifically, expect the Hyperledger Project, driven by The Linux Foundation, to make an impact in 2018.
2. Open Source Will Play a Significant Role in the Internet of Things (IoT)
The two major challenges with IoT are security and management for a massive amount of endpoints. In order to manage an IoT environment, it is necessary to have a de facto standard to communicate between local gateways, edge devices, and sensors. There are additional standards needed to secure, upgrade, and manage devices and sensors across IoT environments.
Expect open source development to be a key part of any software stack that enables IT to manage and secure an IoT environment regardless of who the vendor is, what the architecture is, and what software is running on the device. There is a need for standardization at this level from a data management, consumption, and processing perspective. Open source will play an important role in addressing these needs.
3. Open Source Will Play a Larger Role in Cybersecurity
We will see a lot more open source activity in cybersecurity. Concerns about the security of our civil infrastructure, our IT infrastructure, and our commerce infrastructure are real and valid. A combination of proprietary and open source innovation will make an impact in improving security and simplifying some of the insane complexity of today’s systems.
4. The C-suite Will See More Value in Open Source
Open source is ubiquitous. Every major software project today contains massive amounts of open source software, and the enterprise has a deep investment in open source. As the C-suite better understands how open source plays a significant role in the management, compliance, and security of the enterprise, more and more companies will proactively participate in the open source community to help drive strategies and priorities. The most interesting and surprising developments will be the ones where proprietary solutions are integrated with open source technologies.
5. Open Source Will Be Incredibly Boring…and Utterly Unpredictable
Linux is now 26 years old and, to quote its inventor Linus Torvalds, it is “incredibly boring.” That’s a good thing. Linux updates are released every two months and are entirely predictable, reliable, and deeply rooted in the idea of incremental progress. Although there is no controlling entity, roadmap, or rollout plan, all the major open source projects like Linux, Kubernetes, and OpenStack are well run, and progress is consistent and predictable.
On the flipside, the fascinating part about open source is that there are more than 63 million projects, and the depth and breadth of that work is significant. It’s impossible to pick the next big revolutionary technology that will sprout out of open source, but history tells us this is a fertile and growing community that will continue to surprise.