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Open source is being used by 91 per cent of IoT developers

Open Source IoT

Data © VisionMobile

  • 55 per cent of IoT developers cited ideology as a reason for using open source
  • 58 per cent of IoT developers are also open source contributors
  • 21 per cent say they choose open source simply because it’s new and exciting

The move to incorporate open source in telecoms networks is slowly gaining traction, thanks mainly to NFV, but elsewhere it’s positively thriving. A new report from VisionMobile reveals that 91 per cent of Internet of Things (IoT) developers use open source technology in their projects.

VisionMobile surveyed 3,700 IoT developers for its 10th edition of the firm’s Developer Economics survey about their use of and attitude towards open source technology. For some, open source technology is a key driver of innovation; for others it is a scary hoodie-wearing beast that threatens to destroy profits and accepted business practice.

VisionMobile asked why developers were choosing Open Source. “Do the most vocal open source evangelists, advocating a superior, more free software society, also represent the majority?” they asked. “Or is there a large group of developers out there using open source for more pragmatic reasons; because it’s ‘free as in beer’ perhaps, or to improve their own positions in the software food chain?” The firm came up with five main reasons: 

  • 55 per cent of IoT developers cited ideology as one of their top-three reasons for using open source, making it the top motivation. This rather paints a picture of developers as idealists, actively thinking about and advocating for a better organisation of business practices;
  • 35 per cent of IoT developers believe it is the best technology due to constant community improvements;
  • 34 per cent of developers use open source to hone their own skills or to learn a new technology;
  • 32 per cent say they appreciate the peer support, which again reflects the importance of community;
  • 21 per cent say they choose open source because, quite simply, it is an exciting new technology. 

In short, IoT developers are choosing open source for ideological, pragmatic and emotional reasons. Quite a mixed bag. What does come across in the findings is the level of enthusiasm that IoT developers feel for open source, with only one in five open source users being completely pragmatic when it comes to open source decisions – that is, they’d only use open source when it’s superior to proprietary alternatives. The vast majority of open source users will use it whenever they can in at least one part of their development stack.

Another aspect of enthusiasm for open source technology discovered by VisionMobile is the degree to which developers contribute to open source projects. The areas with the most enthusiastic open source users also have the most contributors to open source projects. Across the different parts of the development stack, between 32 and 39 per cent of IoT developers contribute at least the occasional bugfix. Furthermore, 58 per cent of IoT developers are open source contributors in at least one part of the stack.

Open source also has a low barrier to entry, and it allows developers to investigate the inner workings of a technology. For example, unit tests included in open source projects often provide some of the best sample code for developers to learn from.

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