Enterprises Standardize on Open-Source Use, but Governance Issues Persist: Sonatype

While reliance on open-source components increases limitations on the visibility, control and management of their use continues to plague organizations.

Organizations of all sizes continue to adopt open-source platforms and applications at an accelerated pace, but lack of internal controls and flawed processes continue to be a challenge€”putting organizations at unnecessary risk, according to a survey by software developer Sonatype of more than 2,500 developers, architects and IT managers across several industries, sizes and locations.

Open-source components are widely used as the building blocks for modern-day applications, but organizations currently have limited control over how they are selected or used. When compared with the 2011 survey results, which had a smaller survey pool of 1,600, the survey indicated corporate policies and governance practices are on the rise, with regulated industries more likely to have policies strictly enforced.

While reliance on open-source components increases year-over-year, limitations on the visibility, control and management of their use throughout the enterprise continues to plague organizations. "As open-source and better collaborative tools have increased the reuse of software libraries and components, it can be difficult to know what exactly is in your product," said Stephen O'Grady, principal analyst with RedMonk. "Sonatype's recent survey highlights the potential dangers of ignorance and the need for better component intelligence."

Only 49 percent of those surveyed said they have an open-source policy in place. The 2012 results show 20 percent, or more than 500 respondents indicating they were locked down and could only use approved components, compared with the 13 percent, or 208 respondents, from the 2011 survey€”indicating an increase in component management as part of open-source governance policies.

When asked how components are controlled in development, 63 percent said corporate standards aren't enforced or they have no standard in place, leaving development teams free to select the components that are best-suited for their projects. In comparison, the 2011 survey showed an overwhelming majority (87 percent) were not subject to corporate standards. Three-quarters of large organizations (employing more than 500 developers) use a repository manager to better manage and control component usage.

While the percentage of organizations implementing open-source policies grew this year, a disconnect remains between development processes, component usage and policy enforcement. More than a quarter (28 percent) of respondents said responsibilities lay with the application development management department. The remaining 72 percent was split among IT operations; development teams; legal, risk and compliance; security; and the open-source software/free open-source software [OSS/FOSS] committee. When asked how component licensing was enforced or restricted, 49 percent said that they have no effective licensing policy in place, and 25 percent indicated component usage is restricted based on specific licenses but dependencies are not examined.

"The survey results confirm what we see and hear from our customers on a daily basis: Open-source has become the backbone of custom application development. Yet it brings with it a complex component ecosystem with no notification infrastructure in place. This leaves organizations exposed to security, quality and IP risks," said Charles Gold, CMO of Sonatype. "The compounding reality is that when issues do arise, the effects are viral while the fixes are not.€