Study Finds Lukewarm Corporate Engagement With Open Source

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Companies expect developers to use open source tools at work, but few make substantial contributions in return

Developers say that nearly three-quarters of their employers expect them to use open source software to do their jobs, but that those same companies’ contribution to the open source world is relatively low, with only 25 percent contributing more than $1,000 (£768) a year to open source projects.

Only a small number of employers, 18 percent, contribute to open source foundations, and only 34 percent allow developers to use company time to make open source contributions, according to a new study.

The study follows IBM’s announcement last week that it plans to buy Linux maker Red Hat for $34 billion (£26m) in order to revitalise its growth in the cloud market, an indication of the importance of open source in the booming cloud industry.

The report by cloud technology provider DigitalOcean, based on responses from more than 4,300 developers around the world, is the company’s fifth quarterly study on developer trends, with this edition focusing entirely on open source.


Community engagement

It found that while employers may be lukewarm about contributing to open source, the same isn’t true for developers themselves, with more than half, or 55 percent, participating in open source projects in one way or another.

The firm said 60 percent of respondents come from firms with 100 or fewer employees.

Of the 55 percent who make open source contributions, 60 percent said they participate in existing open source projects, while 16 percent maintain their own projects and 14 percent file issues against projects.

The top motivation to engage with open source was to improve coding skills, with UK developers particularly citing this factor, at 78 percent vs. 69 percent overall.

The second most common reason was the desire to be part of a community, followed by a drive to learn new technologies.

Developers said they primarily use JavaScript when engaging with open source, at 62 percent, followed by Python at 52 percent.  Go and C# were used by 16 and 10 percent respectively.

Sixty-six percent of developers said they engage at least once a week, and few cited the lack of encouragement by their employers as a barrier to getting involved, at 30 percent.

More common barriers cited were not knowing where to start, at 45 percent, and lack of confidence in their skills, at 44 percent.

Open source security

In their use of open source tools, employers were said to prefer widely adopted technology, at 63 percent, with good documentation being most valued by 48 percent and active maintainers by 42 percent.

Security was the fourth most-rated factor when considering open source technologies to use, and nearly 70 percent of developers also said they think open source is better than average on security.

The top open source projects cited by developers were React.js, Kubernetes, Docker, Linux and Google’s Tensorflow.

When ranking which major tech companies embrace open source the most, most developers cited Google, at 53 percent, followed by Microsoft at 23 percent, Amazon at 4 percent and Apple at only 1 percent.

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