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On the shoulders of open source, cloud stands tall – BlackLine

07 Aug 2019

Article by BlackLine chief technology officer Pete Hirsch

Open source code is used extensively in many business environments.

A Linux Foundation survey last year found 72% of companies “frequently using open source for non-commercial or internal reasons”, while 55% have incorporated open source components into their commercial products.

Interest in the use of open source components continues to grow.

A recent study found that “on average, developers had access to more than 21,448 new open source component releases every day, since the beginning of 2018.”

Citing numbers from IT analyst firm IDC, the same study said that in 2018, “developers around the world consumed hundreds of billions of open-source software component releases.”

There is a huge amount of innovation embedded in this rapid versioning of open source components. That innovation then becomes part of the organisations that use the components, and a multiplier effect occurs.

It’s not just open source components such as libraries that proved useful; entire ecosystems were built around open-source suites, such as technologies and projects that have come under the Apache Software Foundation over the years.

Apache’s rise afforded developers access to a wider range of open source foundations.

All of a sudden, if you were writing an application, you didn't have to write everything from scratch. You could get search engines, app servers and other common components off-the-shelf.

Innovation started to accelerate as a result.

But times are changing.

Think about big data analytics.

Much of the first wave was powered by Apache-run projects like Spark and Hadoop, but the second wave is happening in public cloud services.

This isn’t going to be a one-off.

When you look at the public cloud and its proliferation of services today, it is the next big gateway to accelerating innovation.

Just as open-source meant people could start with someone else’s code, the cloud is similarly giving companies an increasingly reliable base to start from.

It’s effectively the next generation of the promise of open source.

Lowering barriers to entry

The public cloud is not just compute, storage and network.

It comes with an enormous amount of other useful capabilities in the form of cloud-native services.

These services cover a broad range of capabilities from artificial intelligence and machine learning through to serverless computing and data streaming.

Increasingly, public cloud-based services are lowering the barrier to entry in building more advanced technical capabilities internally.

This is occurring through the creation of either low-code or no-code services, where users do not need to know how to code in order to create algorithms or other technical tools with these services. This is of particular benefit to “business” users of technology, who are closer to problems and can now work on solutions themselves - rather than requiring the involvement of IT or buying in technical resources.

A recent survey by Forrester found 84% of enterprises are using low-code platforms and services. The low-code market is expected to be worth over US$27 billion by 2022.

On a practical level, low-code and no-code cloud-based AI services mean you may not need to employ a full staff of data scientists and specialist analytics anymore.

Advanced AI is becoming accessible to a much broader community of workers.

That's also true of other technical domains, such as database administration - and it is fast becoming one of the real advantages of public cloud adoption.

Cloud is no longer just about shutting down or scaling back your physical data centre - it's actually about accessing a much richer set of services that you can leverage to move faster.

This is a big inflection point in the speed of innovation in software development.

Secure by design

One of the other positives in the shift to the public cloud is that the security posture of companies that embrace the cloud is improving, with more thought going into controls and other protections.

Just a few years ago, it was very challenging for companies to get comfortable with security models for running workloads in the cloud.

But companies are now more familiar with the ins and outs of cloud-based operations.

They're also realising that when you move to the public cloud, you need to design your systems differently.

Software development no longer begins with an assumption that you've got physical security controls over a machine or a set of machines in a particular cage in a particular data centre.

That is leading to a re-architecture of software and a much more layered approach to security.

I believe we're actually increasing security by moving to public cloud, because we're designing software in a much more robust and secure way to operate in the cloud.

All the more reason to make cloud a centrepiece of your future operating state.