One of the most attractive things about open source software is that it’s free. Many IT professionals routinely download it simply because they don’t have to get approval from anybody. And quite a few IT organizations have even gone so far as to adopt it as a policy to contain costs.

Not surprisingly, usage of this software has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A global survey of 1,250 IT leaders conducted by Red Hat finds 90 percent now employ open source software to varying degrees. Nearly 80 percent of respondents expect to increase use of this emerging technology over the next two years.

Much of that software is deployed by organizations on public clouds (70 percent), the report notes. The top three use cases cited were infrastructure modernization (64 percent), followed by application development (54 percent), and digital transformation (53 percent).

The fastest growing use case is networking (54 percent). Most survey respondents (87 percent) noted they view open source software as being either “more secure” or “as secure” as proprietary software.

Open source software barriers

Open source software creates opportunities for managed service providers (MSPs) because it’s only a matter of time before organizations that use it start looking for additional support. The top barriers to adoption are, not surprisingly, level of support (42 percent), compatibility (38 percent), security of the code (35 percent), and lack of internal skills (35 percent).

Of course, providers of the software generally hope they will be selected to provide that support. However, many IT organizations don’t want to navigate multiple support contracts with various providers. They would just as soon rely on an MSP to aggregate the management of all those contracts and support requests on their behalf.

A stack of open source software created by what is often a half dozen or more vendors can be extremely challenging to manage whenever an issue arises. Determining which of the software projects is at fault requires a lot of patience and expertise.

Even more challenging for MSPs, however, is the simple fact that many of the contributors to open source software don’t know which organizations are using their software and for what purpose. In many cases, the first time they get an inkling of this, is when a support issues is raised by someone working within an IT team on a public forum.

That lack of visibility makes it difficult to work with MSPs that might be looking for sales leads from an open source vendor. The good news is, there is now a fledgling effort underway to track usage of the software using a gateway service provided by Scarf. However, it will be a while before a critical mass of open source projects decide to participate in that effort.

Expect demand for expertise to rise

Projects such as Kubernetes are transforming how applications are built and delivered using a set of microservices that as it turns out in a lot of cases are more difficult to manage and support. Open source software won’t completely replace commercial software any time, as commercial software is often easier to implement and over time can actually be less expensive to support. Nevertheless, open source is now everywhere so MSPs would be well-advised to focus more on a pain point many organizations clearly have.

Photo: Dusit srisroy / Shutterstock

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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