The Most Important Players in the Open Source Ecosystem

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The Most Important Players in the Open Source Ecosystem

We wanted to know who is having the biggest influence in the open source community, so we asked some industry experts for their thoughts.

· Open Source Zone ·
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To gather insights on the current and future state of open source software (OSS), we talked to 31 executives. This is nearly double the number we speak to for a research guide and believe this reiterates the popularity of, acceptance of, and demand for OSS.

We began by asking, "Who are the most important players in the Open Source ecosystem?" Here's what they told us:

The Foundations

  • This is a question that will have a wide array of answers for us. The most important player is Docker, followed by Microsoft, and then Google. However, Apache is probably the most important, given their number of libraries and projects.
  • The developer is the new decision maker in the tech/digital space. Most open-source ecosystems cater to the developer to build solutions with ease and efficiency. The operations people who run the solutions in production are increasingly getting technical and are also being increasingly served by the open-source communities. A number of OSS foundations are becoming important: Cloud Native Computing Foundation; Cloud Foundry Foundation; and the Apache Software Foundation.
  • I would say the Apache Foundation is the most important force. Just look at the successful projects under their umbrella: Spark, Cassandra, Kafka, and Hadoop, to name a few.
  • Depends on where you look. There are many competitors. The Apache project is big. Google is doing a lot of OSS development for Android but they do not have an open ecosystem so there is less collaboration on the software. Anything that’s not related can be difficult. The Linux kernel is more open.
  • Red Hat, Ubuntu, and the Linux Foundation with its open governance. Apache 501C3 helps people develop code for public consumption. Hortonworks and Cloudera in big data. A lot of small companies making significant contributions to the Linux kernel and hypervisor.
  • 1) Linux Foundation for licensing model and the Apache Foundation. 2) Companies driving big open source projects like Red Hat, IBM, and the myriad of Silicon Valley companies (e.g. SoftLabs).
  • There are a lot of important players in Open Source: from the people that code it, the people that pay their salaries and still let them share, the investors who are able to see the big picture in why sharing key technologies will benefit them. We believe in the Apache Software Foundation and its model as critical to our continued efforts and the future of open source.
  • The Apache Foundation. Pieces of the puzzle like GitHub make it so people can collaborate on the creation and maintenance. The people writing the software. Labor of love by individuals that believe in the virtue of what they are doing.
  • The Apache Foundation by far. Also, the Linux Foundation has been key to enable other people to innovate.
  • The Apache Software Foundation.
  • 1) A lot of innovation from Linux Foundation Cloud Native Compute Foundation. 2) Apache Software Foundation. Glad to see MS and Oracle moving Java to open.
  • There are two ways to think about this. The first being, whose software is used or depended on by the largest amount of people? The Linux Kernel holds this distinction. By powering everything from cell phones, servers, the IoT and embedded devices, pretty much any interaction someone has with the Internet is touched by Linux in some way. The second set of important players are the foundations who set the tone for the Open Source world. For example, the Apache Software Foundation who creates software and uses their position and community to encourage change in behavior. This was most recently seen in the relicensing of React to remove a patent-related clause. Similarly, the FSF, OSI and the Linux Foundation all provide concrete technical and philosophical guidance in the Open Source world.
  • The biggest players in the open source ecosystem are the Apache Foundation, RedHat, and MySQL. Apache and RedHat have been able to build and nurture several major open source operating systems, platforms, tools and libraries. MySQL has been the leading open source database for a long period of time now. There is hardly any multi-tiered software application in the market that is not touched by open projects started by these three major players. SoapUI, Selenium, and JMeter are the biggest open source ecosystems in the quality assurance and testing market that are hugely popular and are used by software developers and QA engineers for functional and load testing of end-to-end software applications, which include the user interface and APIs.

Big Tech Companies

  • 1) Kubernetes given its rapid adoption as an IT and developer solution. 2) OpenStack foundation and community. 3) The range of DevOps tools like Ansible, Puppet, and Chef. 4) Fission serverless functions for Kubernetes.

  • Everyone follows Red Hat. Also, MySQL, MongoDB, and Maria DB.

  • Linux, Google and Microsoft would probably be some of the most important players in the open source ecosystem. Linux founded the open source foundation. RedHat is interesting because they were the first to truly monetize open source. Microsoft and Google have made vast contributions to the open source community. Microsoft has really jumped on the open source bandwagon and has started contributing significantly.
  • 1) Big tech companies that open source components they have developed for themselves but are happy to share with others even without generating any business out of that, since they are not giving away their core business IP. Examples include Google, Facebook, Netflix and many more. 2) Software companies that do open source their core business IP, however, have built a vital business by offering additional features and/or support to those who are using their open source technology. The more technical the product’s primary audience and the more the products focus on infrastructure components, the better this business model works. Examples include Elastic, Confluent and Camunda. 3) Open Source collaboration platforms such as GitHub provide the necessary forum for anyone participating in the ecosystem, including students who code for fun or highly paid senior software engineers working for huge companies. Without these platforms, the aforementioned dynamics of developer passion, community recognition and commercial leverage would not happen.
  • It would be easy to say that the most important players are the big firms like Google and Red Hat that create, publish and maintain a lot of open source. These companies are valuable, of course. However, I actually have a great deal of respect for web-scale companies like Netflix, Twitter, Lyft or Facebook who innovate and then share their projects with the open-source community. While we would think of these firms as software companies, their end-users are largely not technologists, so it’s harder to justify publishing open-source software to the “business”. That they have been able to do so has given us great tools like Apache Thrift (Facebook), Spinnaker (Netflix) and Envoy (Lyft).
  • All the corporations with big money are important players, just like in the old days. Check the top 5 public companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet/Google) they're all tech companies and all of them have some significant presence in the world of open source. The cool thing about open source is the long tail of small companies, research institutions, and individuals that co-innovate and disrupt technology right alongside the giants. Open source has changed the tech innovation game for the better.


  • Developers. They’re making open source stronger every year. Your impact is determined by your contributions – writers and users alike.

  • The community of contributors. The people who see potential improvements to a project then build new features that everyone can benefit from are the force that keeps a project moving forward. Just as valuable are users who will discuss their use cases in public, be it in the form of a blog post or a conference presentation so that potential users can understand how exactly to apply a technology to common problems. It’s common for companies to form around popular open source technologies. These companies often invest lots of time and resources into growing the community, supporting users who have questions, and of course, working on the software.
  • Every maintainer. Every contributor. Every answerer of an issue.
  • I do not believe that any one player is more important than the other in the open source ecosystem. Each player in the ecosystem is pushing the other players to be better. This includes everyone from contributors to the open source programs, to the customers that use and work to operationalize the software in real-life business events.
  • The most important players in the open source ecosystem are the high school and college students who are currently learning computer science with open source software and projects, instead of proprietary software, which was previously the status quo, 10 years ago. These students will carry over their education in open source into their professional lives, and we’re going to see more applications built with open source.

Here’s who shared their insights with us:

OSS, apache, linux, microsoft, open source, open source companies, red hat

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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