Since 2008, Black Duck has done an annual review of the world of open source to recognise top new projects launched during the previous year. The selection committee is made up of members of our Product Management and Product Marketing teams with data analysis help from the team that manages Black Duck’s OpenHub.net service. Our goal is to leverage Black Duck’s unique insight, as a company that has amassed a KnowledgeBase of nearly a million and a half open source projects, to shed light on projects that might not otherwise be on the radar of mainstream tech media. 

Much has changed in open source since the first Black Duck Open Source Software awards in 2008 Click to Tweet

The 2015 Black Duck Open Source Software “Rookies of the Year” were announced in early March 2016 and marks the eighth year of the awards. Much has changed in open source since our first awards in 2008. Open source is no longer the domain of academia and idealistic developers. OS components have become essential building blocks for many enterprise and commercial applications. OS development is now essential to the business strategy of the majority of software development companies.

The open source rookie class of 2015 reflects those dynamics. For-profit software companies sponsored and contributed to the bulk of the top projects. Businesses choose an open source development model for many reasons, but one thing is clear: open source is not viewed merely as a tool for competitive success and profitability, but also as a strategic element in achieving those goals. In some cases, the open source projects are adjuncts to their sponsors’ core products or offshoots of internal development initiatives. In other cases, the projects are drivers of the core products themselves.

Businesses choose an open source development model for many reasons, but one thing is clear: open source is not viewed merely as a tool for competitive success and profitability, but also as a strategic element in achieving those goals

3 trends shaping the open source industry in 2015

As we went through the selection process, I was struck by three trends in the state of open source.

Open Collaboration: Enterprise real-time communication and collaboration continue to be fertile grounds for open source innovation. Many of us, me included, are dependent on tools like GoToMeeting and Slack. But what if you don’t want to be locked into a proprietary solution? Our rookies class has three great options: Rocket.chat and Mattermost are Slack alternatives, while Hubl.in provides simple and lightweight video conferencing

Docker Containers: Just two years ago we added Docker to our Open Source Rookies list. Since that time, market interest in DevOps, rapid deployment technologies, and Docker in particular has exploded.

There were many projects launched in 2015, and it was hard to choose which ones to name on the rookies list. In the end we selected four. Kontena and Nulecule (part of Red Hat Atomic) provide solutions for orchestrating and simplifying deployment in complex environments. Chef’s Inspec helps companies add automated compliance testing to their DevOps environment, while Capital One have put their own DevOps dashboard solution, Hygieia, into open source.

Artificial Intelligence:  We may still be a way from truly self-aware machines, but development teams are racking up impressive achievements in helping computers get smarter at getting smarter. IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer beat Grand Master Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997. In 2011 IBM’s Watson trounced humans at the quiz game Jeopardy. And in March 2016, researchers at Google DeepMind, the Alphabet-owned artificial intelligence research company, announced that they had created an artificial intelligence system that beat a professional Go player in a best of five match-up. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded through Twitter that his company’s AI researchers are also close to beating humans at the game.

Both Google and Facebook are very active in the open source community and this year we recognised two projects backed by them. The first is Bazel, a large scale build automation system developed and used by Google. The second is React Native, an extension to the React mobile development framework, sponsored by Facebook. Both of these projects look to be very promising solutions for development teams.

Enterprise real-time communication and collaboration continue to be fertile grounds for open source innovation

The full list of 2015 Black Duck Open Source Rookies of the Year include:

  • Rocket.Chat – an open source web chat platform built for communities and companies wanting to privately host their own chat service.
  • Mattermost – an open source, on premise Slack alternative, written in Golang and React.
  • Hubl.in – a free and open source video conferencing solution.
  • MXNet – a lightweight deep learning library created by DMLC, the people behind CXXNet, Minerva and Purine2.
  • Bazel – a subset of Google’s internal software development tools, building software quickly and reliably through a shared code repository in which all software is built from source.
  • React Native – a Facebook-sponsored framework for building native mobile applications using the React JavaScript library.
  • Kontena – an open source container management solution “built to maximise developer happiness.”
  • Nulecule – a specification for packaging complex multi-container applications while ensuring smooth deployment across all instances.
  • InSpec – an open source compliance testing framework for specifying compliance, security and policy requirements.
  • Hygieia – Capital One’s enterprise DevOps dashboard, released last year as an open source project on GitHub.
  • Glucosio – one of the world’s first open source diabetes monitoring applications.
  • Honorable Mention: Vault – a tool for securely accessing API keys, passwords, certificates, employee credentials and other sensitive resources.
  • Honorable Mention: RancherOS – a miniscule Linux distribution specially designed to be the easiest way to manage Docker containers.
  • Honorable Mention: OWASP Security Knowledge Framework (SKF) – a free, open source web app security system based on OWASP security standards.

This year’s Rookies are impressive examples of how far open source has come, with start-ups like Mattermost and Glucosio as well as big players like Google, Facebook and Red Hat leveraging the open source community to help drive innovation in everything from DevOps and Docker container solutions to diabetes monitoring and real-time communication.

Many businesses are leveraging the open source community to help drive innovation Click to Tweet

All these are sophisticated initiatives where the open source approach is a core part of the business strategy for speeding development, promoting adoption and providing the most value to their customers. Is there another Docker in the group?  Only time will tell.  But when you talk to the really smart people behind these projects and say to yourself, “I’d love to work on that,” you know you have a group of winners.