Open source software continues to grow in popularity. Companies of all sizes, from startups to international corporations, now utilize these solutions for a wide range of purposes, taking full advantage of the technology's affordability, reliability and flexibility.
This trend is not limited to the private sector. As Opensource.com recently reported, David Wheeler, one of the industry's leading experts, believes that the federal government now uses open source software to a greater degree than ever before, and is likely to continue in this direction into the future.
Open source solutions in the government
The source noted that Wheeler has advised and worked with the U.S. government on open source software issues for well over a decade. According to Wheeler, open source software use has increased significantly in recent years. He said there are no studies to confirm this trend, but anecdotally he's aware of a major uptick in use of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBOSS, Drupal, PostgreSQL and more.
Wheeler emphasized that, in addition to leveraging available tools, the government is also increasingly developing and releasing its own open source software solutions. These efforts range from bug fixes to completely new projects.
Notably, Wheeler highlighted the use and development of open source software by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, NASA and the White House. He explained to Opensource.com that these efforts are very exciting for anyone who supports this technology.
"These OSS projects are producing the kind of public/private partnerships that are often desired but difficult to achieve," said Wheeler, the source reported.
The future of open source
Wheeler went on to argue that open source software is critical for the nation's long-term economic security.
"Automation is central to practically every modern endeavor," Wheeler told the news source. "Creating and improving automation requires malleable building blocks. In particular, innovation necessarily requires building blocks that can be reshaped in new ways."
Open source software fills this need, he explained.
Open source challenges
However, for all of the benefits open source may deliver for the U.S. government, there are significant challenges which must be overcome. Most notable is the issue of cybersecurity. As the recent Heartbleed security vulnerability revealed, lax oversight can lead to major security flaws in open source code.
To avoid these risks, it is imperative for federal agencies to embrace high-quality open source tools that can detect and identify potential flaws before they cause serious problems.