The 5 Open Source Trends for 2021

Open source has become popular over the last two decades. Today, over 40M developers contribute to platforms such as GitHub, and it is expected that the open source industry will reach approximately $33B by 2022 according to the CB Insights’ Market Sizing tool [4]. As an example of the open source growth, the Linux maintained version by Red Hat has reached a 33% share of worldwide server operating environments in 2017, a lot more than predicted [2].

All this growth means that we still have a lot more to learn about open source and to contribute to it. To Heather Kirksey, vice president of community and ecosystem development at The Linux Foundation, “today’s open source trends vary by industry but include projects such as blockchain, which companies in finance and banking are eyeing, as well as containers and Kubernetes, which are continuing to evolve and grow in use by enterprise IT” [1]. Based on this, what are the open source trends for 2021? Here are our five predictions for 2021.

Cloud & Containers

The biggest boom in the open source cloud applications was projects such as Docker and Kubernetes. Over 3.5 million applications have been placed in containers that use Docker technology, and over 37 billion containerized applications have been downloaded, according to Docker [2].

Kubernetes, on the other hand, is part of edge computing. Edge computing refers to an area of cloud computing where the infrastructure for computing, storage and other requirements need to be placed in the field closer to users or their use cases. Thus, cloud computing helps to centralize and create large data centers that benefit from scale, and most interactions with users move to the edge. Based on this, there is an increase in the number of distributions or plugins to the Kubernetes ecosystem to support new use cases. Projects like KubeEdge and K3s bring the Kubernetes API and extensibility to more devices, even those on the edge.

Microservices & Service Mesh

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Microservices adoption. Source: 451 Research

According to Gartner [5], companies deploying microservices to production will require some form of service mesh capabilities to scale. Since the primary goal of service mesh is to make service-to-service communications secure, fast, and reliable, service mesh can help applications to migrate to microservices in a more reliable way.

As an example of a microservices open source project, we have TARS. TARS, a microservices open source project, has been around for 12 years. Despite providing service governance, development with multiple programming languages, and a bunch of functionalities that facilitate microservices development, the TARS team has already mentioned that service mesh is in the roadmap of TARS in order to address the industry’s needs [6].


However, experts predict that 90% of blockchain projects will require replacement within a year [7], this is because most of these projects ignore key features such as tokenization, smart contracts, and decentralised consensus. Furthermore, according to Gartner, more than 40% of the surveyed companies have at least one blockchain pilot project. It is predicted that 30% of these projects will go into production in 2021 on a private enterprise blockchain platform.

If we look into the countries leading the blockchain market, we see that China is ahead when it is about blockchain games. China’s state-backed Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) is aimed to make blockchain an integral part of the country’s digital infrastructure [8].

As an example of a blockchain open source project, the Hyperledger blockchain project, which The Linux Foundation sponsors, helps solving challenges such as security and authentication for a wide range of industries [1]. Emerging trends that use blockchain and Hyperledger are enabling transitions, supply chain verifications, and identity validations.

AI & Big Data

According to a survey conducted by O’Reilly [11], more than half of the respondents said that AI (most specifically, deep learning) will be part of their future projects and products. With artificial intelligence, companies can predict which additional products a customer is likely to buy, and which types of customers pose the greatest risk for insurance companies, for example. Although AI can be applied to a variety of industries, computer vision and text mining are the ones that draw the most attention (see image below).

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Type of application of AI. Extracted from [11].

Developers might use a variety of tools to build AI (more specifically, deep learning) applications. The most common ones are Tensorflow and Keras open source projects.

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AI Tools. Extracted from [11].

Edge Computing

We believe that edge computing will be a trend for 2021 for three reasons. First, hybrid cloud is becoming very common, and this concept will be applied to edge computing architectures. Second, cloud providers such as AWS and Azure are delivering their own edge solutions. Hence, in 2021 they might continue this trend in order to speed up innovation [14]. Finally, the maturity of cloud models will help edge use cases such as AI, IoT, 5G and enhanced communications.

According to the IDC, the edge computing market worldwide will grow to $250.6 billion by 2024 [13]. With this new technology, companies will need to think about how to build the edge capacity with all the infrastructure and services required. Furthermore, companies will start to incorporate edge computing capabilities into the software deployment pipeline and use this infrastructure to support personalized content and streaming services [13]. The goal is that edge computing extends the cloud ecosystem by standardizing computes, storage, and networking product offerings alongside mature business models [15].

In order to create an open framework for edge computing, the Linux Foundation Edge is bringing together industry leaders in Edge computing. In the open source edge computing projects that are also part of the LF Edge, Akraino is a good example. “Akraino is a set of open infrastructures and application blueprints for the Edge, spanning a broad variety of use cases, including 5G, AI, Edge IaaS/PaaS, IoT, for both provider and enterprise edge domains” [16]. The third release of Akraino includes six new blueprints focusing on video security, cloud gaming, enterprise applications on 5G edge, multi-access edge computing for smart cities, and edge hardware acceleration.


About the author:

Isabella Ferreira is Advocate at TARS Foundation, a cloud-native open-source microservice foundation under the Linux Foundation.



















Written by

I'm a PhD Candidate in Computer Engineering at PolyMTL and I'm also an advocate at the TARS Foundation. I'm passionated about open source development!

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