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Top 10 Open Source Developments of 2015

By Jack M. Germain
Dec 2, 2015 9:24 AM PT

Open source is driving an ever-expanding market. The notion of community-driven development is a growing disruption to proprietary software controlled by commercial vendors, and the free open source software concept has become a major disruption in industry and technology.

Top 10 Open Source Developments of 2015

Open source is so pervasive that people tend to focus on big news items while overlooking how it's the glue of modern communication and enterprise business models.

"Some essential open source projects are used everywhere but rarely get much of the glamour treatment," said Markus Rex, CEO of ownCloud.

"Open source has reached a popularity of prevalence. It is dominant," he told LinuxInsider.

As 2015 grinds to an end, LinuxInsider invited industry insiders to discuss the top open source developments that will push the concept in new directions. Following are the top 10 trends they identified.

1. Companies Open Closed Doors

The biggest development in open source in 2015 was the trend of long-standing closed source companies starting to release their products into open source, according to Jim Mlodgenski, CTO of the Open Source Consulting Group.

"Microsoft started this in late 2014 by releasing .Net and continued to innovate on this by supporting .Net on Linux and then releasing their enterprise development platform, Visual Studio, a few weeks ago," he told LinuxInsider.

The trend continued with Pivotal releasing all of its databases -- Greenplum, HAWQ and GemFire. All were closed source EMC/VMware products before Pivotal was spun out of them, said Mlodgenski, a board member of the United States PostgreSQL Association.

"Microsoft has done a complete turnaround on how it regards open source. My friends at Microsoft think of open source as a new era. This is pervasive throughout the company," said Kelly Stirman, vice president of strategy and product development at MongoDB.

The development of the database industry has evolved around open source. Many other companies are now open-sourcing their proprietary products.

"They are basically saying they have no other way to compete in the market. This is particularly true in the system and platform technologies," Stirman told LinuxInsider.

2. Companies Start With Open Source

Open source is expanding to dominate the language and development tool space as well as the big data space, Mlodgenski said.

Major companies and big brand names are undertaking open source projects to stay ahead of the curve and enhance engagement, said Sumit Ranjan Aggarwal, group manager for HCL Technologies.

"For example, Microsoft recently rolled out its Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit that simplifies machine learning work across distributed systems by allowing models to be trained -- a core component of machine learning -- on multiple nodes at once," he told LinuxInsider.

"Other big names such as LinkedIn, eBay and Facebook all have launched big open source projects. Companies use it as a means of engaging their audience and building loyalties," Aggarwal said.

3. Open Source Rocks Education

The education world also is putting open source at the head of the class, culminating with the U.S. Department of Education's #GoOpen campaign.

"Open source and education are concepts that fit together and complement each other incredibly well. Both focus on transparency and sharing information, and both encourage and benefit from empowered and motivated consumers," said Alex Kluge, founder of Vizit Solutions.

The company's goal is to foster effective and well-designed educational experiences, he told LinuxInsider.

"In the short term, there are the obvious opportunities for increased reach of open source into the educational market," Kluge said. "In the longer term, there is the much more subtle effect of exposing the next generation of developers, users and purchasers to the open source ecosystem."

4. Ubuntu Wins Kudos

Success stories surrounding Ubuntu Linux must be included in any list of key open source developments. Ubuntu has become mainstream for server applications, according to MongoDB's Stirman.

It has aways been at the top of the list for desktop applications. The server trend has become more evident this year, he noted.

5. Android Gets Better

"This is also the year that Android became better than iOS. From my own experience, I already felt that Android's apps were better. Now the entire Android OS has taken over. I think Android is ahead," Stirman said.

6. Container Tech Takes Off

In the bigger space of open source technology, container technology is among the most exciting stories, Stirman pointed out.

Docker is the clear winner. The interesting narrative about that is Docker is all about the user experience, he suggested.

"Even with the rise in popularity of NoSQL and the change in the database market, the real story behind that -- especially for MongoDB -- is [that] the experience for developers who use the technology was reimagined from the ground up for the developer," Stirman added.

The same thing has happened to Docker, he noted.

7. Open Source Aids AI

Another high-profile open source move makes deep machine learning drastically more accessible, said Tim Perry, technical lead at Softwire.

Google's recent overture in open-sourcing its machine learning toolbox, called "TensorFlow," will have a huge impact on the development of all things related to artificial intelligence, he predicted.

TensorFlow is an open source software library for numerical computation using data flow graphs.

"We saw clear and substantial progress in the AI space with machine learning and neural networks becoming more available and mainstream," noted David Gray, lead instructor at CodeCraft School of Technology. "Google's Deep Dream showed us what the mind of a true AI might eventually look like."

8. Everybody Gets to Hack Hardware

Raspberry Pi Zero is a US$5 computer board. Its hardware price is among the lowest on the market, and it nearly eliminates the barrier to learning programming.

The availability of cheap hardware will advance "the rapid domination of open source tools across the board in the rest of the development community ... and hugely reduce the barrier to entry, " Softwire's Perry told LinuxInsider. "This is really where the power of open source makes its mark."

The Open Compute Project is making significant contributions as a companion to the open source software model, said Dan Dowling, vice president of engineering at Penguin Computing.

The OCP shares designs of data center products among companies that want to spark collaborative dialogue about open hardware. Member companies include Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Rackspace, Cisco, Juniper Networks, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and Bank of America.

Just as open source frees companies from dependence on any one vendor on the software side, it can work on the hardware side to leverage the community.

"The big advantage from a hardware point of view is common compute sizes for racks and node components. It also gives us the ability to add any motherboard that fits that standard stack based on the OCP standard," Dowling told LinuxInsider.

9. JavaScript Gets a Boost

2015 was a pivotal year for JavaScript and the entire stack of open source technologies that support its client-side and server-side platform, CodeCraft School's Gray told LinuxInsider. From Node.js to Angular, Meteor to React, the platform found its legs in 2015.

10. The Cloud Gathers Steam

"The cloud also had a good year," Gray noted. "We began to see more coherent, user-friendly non-terminal/UI-based technologies like GitHub Desktop coming into the cloud, making these technologies much more accessible to the masses."


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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