Developers wanting to hone their cloud skills would be well advised to focus on building skills around the open source technologies that underpin clouds such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform rather than focus on a specific cloud. That's one of the findings in a new study, The Value of Open Source in the Cloud Era, that O'Reilly conducted for IBM.
Of the almost 3,500 people who participated in the survey (nearly evenly split between developers and technology managers), 94% rated open source software as equal to or better than proprietary software, and 70% indicated that when choosing cloud providers, they preferred those based on open source cloud technologies.
This is good news for IBM. The company sees such a bright future for the hybrid multicloud approach – which avoids vendor lock-in through the use of open source cloud technologies – that it bet $34 billion purchasing open source hybrid cloud pioneer Red Hat a few years back. More recently, it doubled down on that bet by announcing that it will spin off most of its non-cloud-related businesses into a separate company sometime this year.
It's also good news for open source developers. The survey found that among hiring managers, roughly 60% agreed that open source experience and skills are important factors in determining who to hire. Similarly, 52% said an applicant’s knowledge of open source was considered in their hiring decisions, with only about 8% saying it wasn't taken into account (the remaining 40% said the question didn't apply).
The embrace of open source skills is part of a long-term trend. For years, surveys such as this have indicated a hiring preference for those with open source skills. In October, for example, the Linux Foundation's 2020 Open Source Jobs Report indicated an even a larger share of hiring managers, in this case 81%, prioritize the hiring of applicants with open source on their resume.
This is especially true in the cloud, where cloud-native technologies are driven by open source technologies such as Linux, Kubernetes and Istio. While all of the public clouds offer these technologies as easy-to-deploy services, they are not able to be easily used across clouds. For that, enterprises turn to open source projects such as OpenShift, which can more easily expand an infrastructure's reach to include both on-premises and multiple clouds.
Code as a Resume
The IBM survey points to an often-overlooked way that working in open source can help boost a developer's career, which is that the product of their work, the source code, is out in the open where hiring managers can have a firsthand look at their skills. This is seldom true of code written for proprietary vendors.
In the survey, more than 65% of respondents said that contributions to open source projects can create a favorable impression in an employment interview and can lead to better job opportunities.
"We do hackathons and other things to help college students get going and introduce them to technology, and one of the things that I always really stress is that they get code up onto GitHub; that they get things out into the wild so that people can see their resume of code," Todd Moore, vice president of open technology and developer advocacy at IBM, told ITPro Today.
"I think it makes all the difference in the world to join an open source project and give back to the communities that you're taking code from," he added. "That virtuous cycle you created will come and follow you and help you in your career."
Open Source Cloud Technologies Ranked
By far, Linux topped other technologies in importance in the survey, with 95% of respondents calling it “somewhat” to “very” important. The report on the survey noted that Linux's importance was rated particularly high by respondents in the telecom industry, adding that it is one of the few places in the survey's results where a particular industry differed from others in the survey.
There were no surprises when it came to the other cloud-native technologies valued by both management and DevOps, a list that includes containers, Kubernetes, open databases and open source artificial intelligence technologies.
Interestingly, the report notes that there's somewhat of a disconnect between the importance respondents assign to skills in these technologies and their self-reported expertise.
"Perhaps there is just a time lag between the desire to obtain skills and the actual achievement," the report said. "Alternatively, respondents may have trouble finding educational outlets. Computer science courses concentrate on general knowledge rather than current technologies, which is entirely appropriate."