Developers Are Taking Over the World!

And That’s a Good Thing ...

I wrote a post a few weeks ago discussing Apple's success at penetrating the corporate world by ignoring the generic "enterprise market" in favor of selling to individual users.

Today, I'm struck by a related phenomenon, the increasing public discussion around developers as the IT decision makers in enterprises. Both Redmonk and CIO have noted that developers, not IT department heads, seem to be driving many tech adoption decisions through an almost imperceptible process that has organizations realizing only after the fact that their technology usage is quite different-and often better-than originally planned.

CIO suggests this developer phenomenon is also happening with cloud computing, creating a grassroots groundswell of cloud usage across major enterprises despite the popular myth that the public cloud isn't ready for primetime.

How and why does this happen? Redmonk thinks it's because "...developers are the single most important constituency in technology. Open source dramatically lowers the barriers to adoption, such that developers may build upon what they want rather than what they're given."

The phenomenon of developer-led open source adoption - or any widespread adoption - boils down to a fundamentally simple premise: products and technology become popular when they help people do whatever they need to do better and more easily. If it works well, people will use it. In the case of open source, thousands of developers can be more innovative and rapidly hone their software, which organically helps it become more valuable to more people more quickly.

Reaching the adoption tipping point with developers doesn't depend on price alone. Innovation is a primary benefit of the living, breathing open source community, and the 2010 Future of Open Source Survey, conducted earlier this year by North Bridge, aptly cites rapid innovation as a driving force for developers.

Discussing the survey, Michael Skok, general partner at North Bridge, said, "The not so 'secret sauce' at work is that open source users are the developers. This creates a fundamental difference in terms of both the philosophy, pace and process that makes it impossible for traditional software companies to keep up. Without the burden of a long product development cycle, open source software can create and release new features immediately by the people and organizations that need them."

As that survey supports, users are beginning to adopt open source for more high-profile, mission-critical projects in the public sector and major enterprises. And there is a shift up the stack to applications that will continue to increase open source usage significantly. IT organizations should continue to listen to their developers to get a clearer view of how much open source is actually being used to power their competitive advantage. They will probably be surprised.

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