Growing open-source software use inside businesses is causing more companies to create formal open-source program offices within their operations to encourage, organize and support the use of open-source code.
That's the conclusion of the new 2018 Open Source Program Management Survey, conducted by The Linux Foundation in collaboration with the TODO Group and The New Stack, which found that more than half (53 percent) of responding companies either already have such an office or will create one in the next year.
The study included responses from 748 people, nearly half of whom are developers. About one in five (21 percent) work at large companies with more than 10,000 employees, while 42 percent work inside small and midsize companies with 250 or fewer employees.
The creation of formal open-source programs is apparently becoming a best practice for companies in the technology, telecom/media and financial-services industries, the study reports.
"A successful open-source program can greatly benefit corporate open-source use by establishing processes that enable developers and their teams and encouraging standard coding and organizational practices, processes, and tool sets," according to the group.
The survey, which looks at the prevalence and outcomes of open-source programs among global Fortune 2000 businesses, found that open-source use has become commonplace among tech and non-tech companies, with some 72 percent of companies frequently using open source for noncommercial or internal reasons, and 55 percent using it for commercial products.
Three in five (59 percent) of the survey's respondents whose companies already have an open-source program office said that open-source programs are very critical or extremely critical to the success of their engineering and product teams, while 70 percent whose companies don't yet have an open-source program office said they believe it would have a positive impact on their company.
The study's respondents also said the top three benefits of managing an open-source program are increased awareness of open-source usage and dependencies, increased developer agility and speed, and better license compliance.
Respondents also reported that about two in three (63 percent) large companies are likely to run an open-source program office, compared to only 37 percent of smaller companies.
Open-source program offices tend to start informally as a working group or through the work of a few key developers before evolving into formal programs over time, the report said. About 41 percent of such offices typically start within a company's software engineering or development department.
Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and co-founder of the TODO Group at The Linux Foundation, said the survey gives a graphic look at the importance and growing use of open source in businesses today.
"Almost every organization today uses open-source code and it has become table stakes for most businesses, even though it's not always fully understood at the executive or strategic level," said Aniszczyk. "The results of the Open Source Program Management Survey point to a growing awareness by decision makers of the need for formal open-source programs and policies to manage how open-source code is used and produced, as well as an increasing understanding of how it can be strategically integrated into a company's business plans."
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, told Channel Futures that the lure of open-source program offices is a case of wanting to centralize and protect open-source resources to help avoid mistakes.
"Open source requires a discipline to ensure related risks are in line with company policy and that usage and practices don't open the firm up to litigation for license violations," said Enderle. "If you don't focus on maintaining the competence, you could lose it and suddenly have people taking avoidable foolish risks because they don't know any better."
Creating and supporting an open-source program office can help prevent that, he added.
"By assuring a center of competence, you can gain the benefits of open-source software while keeping the related risks at acceptable levels consistently."
The TODO Group is a group of companies within The Linux Foundation that collaborate on best practices for open-source programs. The TODO Group has developed a set of open source best practices to help developers and decision makers become more productive and more structured in how they manage the open-source software used inside their operations.