This blog post was produced by RTInsights in collaboration with Red Hat

Is Open Source Software the Best Choice for IoT Development?


For IoT development, new survey data shows enterprise IT teams are getting more comfortable with open source software.

Open source software (OSS) tools are everywhere. But given the expansive demands of IoT application and solution development – which also means a full complement of tools including programming languages, development environments, middleware, messaging, mobility, storage, and system/application management – are open source software tools the best choice?

To find out, we conducted a survey that looked at the intersection of IoT, developer tools, and open source software, and compared the use of open source software tools to proprietary tools across vendors who are or will be developing IoT solutions (see “Research Objectives and Methodology,” below, for details on the 2017 Worldwide IoT Innovation Survey, conducted by RTInsights).

See also: Is IoT development that different from web development?

The key question that we asked in the survey was what type of software tools the respondents either currently use or will use for IoT application development. (The choice of responses included: primarily proprietary tools, mostly proprietary tools, both proprietary and OSS tools, mostly OSS tools, and primarily OSS tools.) We then segmented the sample in a variety of ways to allow detailed insight into the use of OSS tools.

One way we segmented the sample was to divide it into enterprises that are currently developing IoT solutions and enterprises that will be developing IoT solutions in the next 18 months. Another way we segmented the sample was for the enterprise to self-classify its maturity in IoT application development. (Choices were leader, early adopter, part of the early majority, part of the late majority, or a laggard.)

The figure below shows survey results for the two segments described: enterprises that are currently developing IoT solutions on the left, and enterprises who classify themselves as IoT leaders on the right.

blog 2 figure

Showing a preference for open source for IoT

Enterprises that are currently developing IoT applications show a slight preference for OSS tools (39 percent) compared to proprietary tools (36 percent). The strong showing of OSS tools is now a characteristic of new markets. Back in the early days of open source, it had a reputation of being the end-game for mature markets. Now, open source is a primary driver of innovation in new markets. Virtually every key IT advancement over the last 15 years (cloud, mobility, big data, IoT, and DevOps) has had a strong open source dimension that was key to accelerating market maturity.

Enterprises who classify themselves as IoT leaders (enterprises who selected an IoT maturity of leader, early majority, or late majority) significantly prefer OSS tools to proprietary tools. Figure 1 shows that 43 percent of IoT leaders prefer OSS tools, compared to 34 percent who prefer proprietary tools. When we dug a little deeper to determine what characteristics IoT leaders used to describe OSS tools, the top four responses included the following:

  1. Open source tools have higher quality
  1. Open source tools are more cost-effective
  1. Open source tools are easier to integrate with other tools
  1. Open source tools are free from vendor lock-in

This is a compelling set of attributes, and the leading characteristic (open source tools have higher quality) was also the leading attribute across all survey respondents. These findings suggest that if open source tools for IoT application development are not on your radar in a material way, then it’s time to give them a much closer look.

For more information on our survey, click here to download the complete survey report, “The Impact of Open Source Software on Developing IoT Solutions.”

Research Objectives and Methodology; This article highlights key findings from the 2017 Worldwide IoT Innovation Survey conducted by RTInsights and sponsored by Red Hat. The objective of this survey was to understand the impact of open source software (OSS) on the development of IoT applications. We targeted IT decision-makers at large and very large enterprises in October and November of 2017. Our sample of 253 IT decision makers was split nearly evenly between senior managers in IT operations and application development. The enterprises that we surveyed spanned all major vertical industries other than those directly involved in providing IT services and support.

Stephen Hendrick

About Stephen Hendrick

Steve Hendrick specializes in application development and management research including DevOps, application management, application platforms, decision analytics, middleware, and the broad spectrum of tools and technologies that support professional developers and IT managers. Steve has over 25 years of experience as an industry analyst and 10 years of experience across a variety of application development roles. Steve brings advanced quantitative and qualitative research techniques to bear as an industry analyst providing vendors with deep insight into markets and has developed research across the entire application development and deployment family of markets. Areas where Steve has pioneered research and thought leadership include DevOps, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Decision Analytics, and Vendor/Buyer Journey research.

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