Exactly twenty years ago in February 1998, the term “open source” software came into existence — a month later, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was founded. Today, it’s difficult to remember a day where open source software didn’t power the world around us. Modern technology companies we know today, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, are powered by open source components too numerous to count. Open source projects big and small impact startups, midsize companies, and enterprises around the globe.

At Twistlock, we aim to advance the growth of the cloud native ecosystem and positively impact security for containers, orchestrators, and beyond. We’re proud do our part to support and contribute to Docker and Kubernetes wherever we feel that we can make an impact.

In celebration of Open Source Software month, some of our executive team got together to reflect on trends and highlights since the term came into common usage. I’m sharing their sentiments here:

Q: What has the open source community accomplished over the years?

Dima Stopel, Twistlock VP of R&D: I think that the biggest accomplishment, and a miracle to me, is the realization that a true competitive software product can be developed by a community of enthusiasts without any monetary incentive. By competitive I mean a software product that is both of an equal or higher quality and with an equal or better market fit than commercial competitors. We saw this happens with numerous examples such as Linux, FreeBSD, GNOME, KDE, Firefox, and many more.

Another accomplishment is that a significant percentage of commercial companies started to use open source projects to increase their own productivity. This led to the involvement of companies themselves in the development of the open source projects and as a result companies started contributing code to open source projects. Today the majority of people that work on top open source projects are actually employed by such companies and basically earn money for contributing to open source. We see companies that were very much opposed to the whole idea of open source now embracing it.

John Morello, Twistlock CTO: The rise of OSS is almost without question the biggest change to happen in the software industry in our lifetimes. It’s completely changed the way that not only software companies, but all companies, think about building and procuring software. The fact that this occurred through an unstructured and completely open process is a pretty incredible thing for humanity!

Jeff Littlejohn, Twistlock VP of Business Development: There is a certainly a correlation between the amazing technical innovation and impact over the past 20 years and the democratization of software development with open source tools.

Q: What does open source still have to overcome?

DS: I believe the big challenge is still the ability to monetize an open source project. There are quite a few examples of companies building open source products and succeeding to make money out of these. Red Hat, MongoDB, and Ubuntu, to name a few. However the number is still low and this is still a concern for new businesses forcing them to close source their solution. This is especially typical with SaaS products. There is not enough incentive to open source your SaaS product.

JM: The biggest challenge is that so many successful SaaS platforms are built and extended with OSS with few contributions back out to the world. Some companies are really good about contributing their internally focused innovations, but it’s not universal and there are many projects that would greatly benefit from increased interaction from SaaS vendors, especially in the areas of automation, scale, and security.

JL: I worry that the impulse to open source really powerful and innovative new technologies will become less and less attractive if innovators see that the deck is forever stacked against them to monetize the innovations. It will not be easy to find the right balance of financial investment and return, and project contribution and return – but without financial investment and financial return the pace of innovation and real value will be much slower than it could be.

Q: What are some of the most significant open source accomplishments?

JM: The fact that right now, you can from any cheap PC: download, build, and run the exact same software used to run Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other leading edge organizations, add to it, and then have your contributions reused by those organizations is pretty incredible. OSS has really been a force multiplier for human potential and enabled strangers from all around the world to come together and build things that benefit everyone. That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment.

JL: In recent years, the rise of CNCF has been one of the open source community’s better success stories. As the future of software moves to cloud it requires an entirely new set of development and operations technologies – and the speed with which CNCF became the home and hub for these new technologies has been impressive.

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