This open source thing is finally starting to catch on. 

Oh, sure. Companies have been adopting open-source software in droves for over a decade. That’s not new.

See also: We All Work For Open-Source Companies Now

What may be new is a willingness to actually engage in open source, rather than simply use it. While there is value in simply using open-source software, there’s far more value in participating in it.

How Soon Is Now?

It’s no secret that open source adoption is booming. This can be measured in a number of ways, but one is simply to analyze how many lines of open-source code are being written. Research by Dirk Riehle shows a massive hockey stick for open source projects:

Source: Dirk Riehle

Since 2007, when Riehle published his research, the number of open-source projects and total lines of code has ballooned considerably, driven in part by mobile, as Black Duck data indicates. 

See also: The Enterprise Strikes Back On Open-Source Contributions

But, again, this isn’t new. 

It is new that open source now largely drives the innovation discussion in Big Data, cloud and mobile. Real innovation, it turns out, no longer happens behind closed doors (or closed firewalls). Such open innovation has set up all sorts of new challenges for vendors, as Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady highlights: “Software vendors are facing a powerful new market competitor: their customers.”

While this is certainly true of Web companies, which tend to build rather than buy, it’s also true of mainstream organizations.

GitHub Rising

One way to see this is to look at GitHub projects. GitHub is increasingly the default gathering place for open-source developers. While it’s a good place to find open source to use, it’s popular because it’s an even better place to congregate and collaborate around open source.

In other words, GitHub activity indicates more than mere use.

See also: The Reasons Businesses Use Open Source Are Changing Faster Than You Realize

With this in mind, it’s impressive just how deeply organizations are jumping into GitHub. It’s even more impressive if we consider that some of these GitHub groupies come from the area often considered the least prone to innovation: government. 

Yet, as ReadWrite’s Lauren Orsini reported earlier this year, GitHub “just surpassed 10,000 active users within federal, state, and local governments—a number that’s roughly two and a half times larger than it was at this time last year.”

That’s a big deal.

But so is this report that “Barclays Bank is to work with Commonwealth Bank of Australia on the development of open source tools for analysing large data sets.” Banks. Working together. Sharing code. That’s kind of amazing. 

And so is this tweet from the OpenStack Summit in Paris, which identifies Bloomberg as a sponsor of the open source cloud event, rather than the typical IBM/Red Hat/HP/[insert vendor name here].

What Difference Does It Make?

In many ways, this is a response to Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst’s 2008 pronouncement that much of enterprise IT is a “extraordinary waste”:

The vast majority of software written today is written in enterprise and not for resale. And the vast majority of that is never actually used. The waste in IT software development is extraordinary…. Ultimately, for open source to provide value to all of our customers worldwide, we need to get our customers not only as users of open source products but truly engaged in open source and taking part in the development community.

It has taken over six years for the market to digest the message, but it seems like we’re finally starting to embrace it. And as enterprises embrace it and stop rebuilding many millions of wheels and instead share between themselves as vendors already do, we’ll see an incredible explosion of innovation as companies are able to focus their efforts on cutting edge projects.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock