What Role Does Open Source Play in Digital Disruption?

Software and other digital innovations have been disrupting the way we do business at a rapid pace. Netflix forever changed the way we consume movies and television, Uber disrupted the taxicab business and Amazon upended the retail landscape. Open source technology, software with source code that is freely available for public viewing, contribution, and redistribution, is at the heart of digital disruption.  But just what is open source’s role in disruption?

The Rise of DevOps

One of the reasons why open source innovation is occurring at such a rapid pace is that companies that utilize open source have found DevOps to be one of the most effective ways to tackle new projects.

DevOps breaks down the traditional silos that existed for years between development and operations. It also breaks through the silos that exist between development teams. Historically, different stages of application development were handled by different teams. One team wrote the code. Another team tested it. A third deployed it, etc. This methodology caused severe fragmentation, with each team having its own unique set of priorities with no team really feeling connected to the overall outcome.

Open source disrupts that traditional model and DevOps further disrupts it by creating visibility and unity across development, testing, and operations. Teams have a more robust understanding of how new code will impact performance, with operations actually informing development, creating a shared sense of accountability rather than an “us vs. them” mentality.  Eliminating barriers allows teams to better share responsibility, clarify processes and creates a stronger understanding of the application’s performance. The end result? Teams are more agile, development cycles are shortened, update cycles are shortened and the entire IT environment becomes more agile and efficient.

The Infinite Possibilities of Open Source

With DevOps in place on open source projects, innovation is ongoing and infinite. Developers are continually taking someone else’s work and improving upon it. By nature, open source allows developers to play to their strengths, something you don’t always find when building proprietary projects from scratch.

Consider some of the biggest successes in open source history and how they’ve impacted the way we do things today like Linux (the original open source platform, with roots dating back to 1991), RedHat, Ubuntu, Git, Node.js, Hadoop, WordPress, Drupal, MySQL, Apache, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Android. Without open source, it is unlikely that these projects would have had the same impact in the market.

What’s Next For Open Source

Open source machine learning is the shiny new object attracting attention today. Google recently open-sourced DeepMind Lab, their machine learning platform. Google wants to accelerate the advancement of artificial intelligence and they felt that opening up their software was the way to go about it. Facebook and Elon Musk’s Open AI have also opened their machine learning code to the general public. These moves have many experts in the field nervous about the long-term consequences, but it is fair to say that no matter the outcomes, innovations in open source AI is sure to cause major disruption in the not-so-distant future.

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