Open source application development and delivery tools provide compelling value. Developed by developers for their own use, they meet needs that commercial products often fail to fill. But they can’t do it all; even the best open source tools have functional and support gaps that have created opportunities that companies offering commercial support extensions have stepped in to fill. By combining the potential of open source delivery tooling with the support of commercial extensions, developers can help their organizations create high-quality applications faster.
In conducting in-depth surveys of 150 US application development and IT professionals responsible for software development life-cycle tools at their organizations, Forrester found that while open source tools play a significant and important role in most organizations’ software delivery pipeline, they are not a magic bullet.
Forrester’s study yielded three key findings:
- Open source application delivery tools are essential to organizational success.
- Open source tools can suffer from serious security vulnerabilities.
- Commercial open source extensions fill open source functionality gaps.
In today’s age of digital disruption, every company is a digital business, demanding fast delivery of high-quality applications that delight customers and innovate their business. Application delivery, now more than ever, is an essential component of organizational success across all industries. It is no surprise that the people at these organizations responsible for selecting software development tools understand the importance of their role in selecting tools that help their organizations speed delivery while improving quality. What may surprise people is that more often than not, that solution is open source. Our survey shows:
- Open source tools have widespread use in-app delivery.
- Open source tools deliver new capabilities with both speed and quality.
- Open source tools are perceived to be less costly, at least initially, and offer unique capabilities.
Open source development tools are perceived as delivering features with similar or better quality than existing commercial offerings, and at a lower cost. However, this does not mean that open source tools are without their flaws and challenges, or that every open source tool will have a low total cost of ownership (TCO) just because there is no upfront cost. While risks and costs will vary from tool to tool, organizations looking to adopt open source tools into their software delivery pipeline should be wary of the following potential pitfalls:
- Open source security vulnerabilities.
- Required customization that can drive up TCO.
- Scaling concerns.
Open source development tools play a central role in many organizations’ software delivery pipelines. To close functionality and security gaps in these tools, savvy buyers leverage commercial offerings built on top of open source development tools that improve the quality and supportability of the tool. Our survey shows that a majority of respondents think that commercial offerings built on top of open source software development tools add significant value to the open source tool.
Open source application delivery tools are popular because they meet needs unfulfilled by commercial offerings. Developers contributing to open source projects build tools that they want to use and that solve problems they uniquely understand. Despite the value they provide, the tools are often not sufficient to meet the needs of large enterprises that value security, stability, scalability, and low overall support cost. Commercial support offerings and product extensions fill these gaps. Enterprises that want to blend the best aspects of open source and commercial software should augment their application delivery tools portfolios by considering the following:
- Ensure that your open source tools are adequately supported. Open source projects are supported by their communities, but the responsiveness of these communities to fixing defects and security vulnerabilities can vary widely. Choosing a commercial partner for open source product support can help close the response-time gap.
- Ensure that your open source tools provide the features that you need. Open source tools often have a single-developer or small-team focus; they work fine in smaller contexts but can lack the features that large enterprises need to support a rollout at scale. Commercial offerings can ease administrative burdens and provide multiproject and large program support that the base open source software lacks.
- Ensure that your open source tools integrate well with the rest of your toolchain. No single tool in a modern application delivery organization’s pipeline can do it all, so solid, stable integrations between tools are essential for success. Commercial offerings can fill this gap by delivering reliable integrations between tools that are up to date with the latest versions.