An Open Horizon in 2013

Three trends from the open source community to watch in 2013.

By Ralf Flaxa, SUSE

In my 20 years around the open source community, I’ve seen few years enjoy the progress we made in 2012. What began the year as a development model ripe to handle today’s IT challenges has blossomed due to its ability to handle several critical technologies: cloud, big data, database management, and supercomputing, just to name a few. IT operations are increasingly dependent upon flexibility, power, and choice -- and open source has arisen from a lower-cost alternative to a key enterprise player.

What will 2013 bring for an encore to the enterprise? Here are three key trends I see from the open source world next year.

2013 Trend #1: The open cloud will take hold

Open source made tremendous gains in the cloud computing market in 2012, specifically in OpenStack, the project designed to help vendors develop their own cloud-based solutions. What began with a few hundred developers at the beginning of the year is well over 1,400 now -- and October’s OpenStack Summit drew record participation from several vendors. Last year companies built the first generation of supported solutions based on OpenStack, such as SUSE Cloud, Inktank, Mirantis, and B1 Systems. It has emerged as a strong, energized community of organized contributors.

In 2013, look for the hype to translate into serious business gains from an open cloud environment. Open source helps make it easier to break through the barriers to entry; you’ll see the majority of early cloud adoption arise from an open source-driven solution. Look for open source to also drive innovations in storage, configuration, and management, and we expect cloud environments will need to work harmoniously with the rest of an enterprise’s IT infrastructure.

2013 Trend #2: Big data will move from analysis to insight

Like the cloud, big data is another area that’s received a tremendous amount of exposure and hype. Like cloud, look for 2013 to bring an increasing emphasis on results rather than initial adoption and early-stage projects.

In the open source realm, Linux contributes to big data through its structure -- it can handle the workload of large-scale processors and efficiently manage large-scale computing in widespread projects such as SAP HANA and Teradata. With the support of major enterprise players, look for projects in 2013 to use even larger amounts of data -- at a faster, more efficient rate.

Although performance will improve, the key change in 2013 will be the amount of insight that an organization can extract from these massive analytical platforms. We’re at a point where we’re only beginning to know what we don’t know; in other words, the level of insight we’ve obtained from a big data project is minimal at this point, but that will change very soon. With open source’s help providing the necessary scalability and flexibility, we anticipate that enterprises will start translating this analysis into real enterprise insights.

2013 Trend #3: The need for sophisticated developers will grow

With a growing number of contributors, technologies, and competition, development in the open source community is gradually becoming more complex. For instance, developing for a cloud environment requires people to be constantly flexible and nimble; systems need to be provisioned and managed with existing resources on the fly. It takes a more resourceful and skilled developer to meet this challenge.

Furthermore, the scalability of today’s IT environments requires developers to work in algorithms that can work under an increasingly heavy workload -- and the more complex the existing environment, the more complicated the scaling process becomes. If you do not possess the skills to develop these complex algorithms, then a promising IT project can turn into a massive bottleneck.

Additionally, developers need to have a new level of maturity and acceptance of the unknown. When processes are hosted off-premise, developers need to be able to reallocate resources quickly should a server experience downtime. We’re always tapping the community for the best developers because the best are needed to navigate today’s increasingly complex IT infrastructure.

The open source community was built -- and thrives -- upon momentum, so when you have a year like 2012 (where participation and contribution rose on several key projects), then we’re excited about the subsequent level of innovation and adoption.

If you’re an enterprise IT professional looking to try out the latest with the cloud or big data, give the open source route a try. It has moved beyond a more cost-effective option and emerged as the model of choice for the enterprise.

Ralf Flaxa is VP of Engineering at SUSE, where he is responsible for leading the team of engineers that develop SUSE Linux solutions. You can contact the author at

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