3 predictions that will shape the open source landscape in 2023

crystal ball

Digital transformation remains a highly important topic for enterprises that keeps evolving. With ongoing economic uncertainties, like rising inflation, market turbulence, and the energy and cost of living crisis, businesses are realizing they must do more with less over the coming year. 

Organizations are gearing towards technologies that can enable their systems and processes to support each other seamlessly and enable them to drive efficiencies. In particular, they are turning to open source technologies to improve connectivity, observability and security in their ever-growing tech stacks. 

With this increased reliance and demand, the open source community is facing its biggest challenge yet; ensuring strong collaboration and innovation prevail in 2023, despite open source being more enterprise-mainstream than ever before. Here are the top predictions for the upcoming year:

Open source will have a reckoning and return to its roots and principles

Open source will slam headfirst into commercial friction next year. And more open source proponents will demand a return to the roots: namely, community and contribution. 

Open source is more enterprise mainstream than ever. According to 2022 data, 82 percent of IT leaders were more likely to favor a vendor who contributes to the open source community (Red Hat, State of Enterprise Open Source, February 2022.) We’ll see the dedicated open source community "stand up" against those that would shut members out of the community, or stifle innovation, whether that’s through limiting industry event participation, taking credit, supporting practices that encourage vendor lock-in, or any other closed approach to what should remain open. 

More big vendors will join forces for the good of a project, similar to Google and Solo recently did on Ambient Mesh, as one example. Both had started our own projects working separately on the challenges toward the same goal, and ultimately chose to combine resources to expedite and strengthen the contribution. Google brought a security focus to the table, while Solo brought a lens to streamlining operations. Collaboration remains key to open source innovation.

Istio is emerging as "the Kubernetes of service mesh" 

Kubernetes has crossed the chasm, with nearly two-thirds of companies using it in production. Istio is on the same track, fast emerging as “the Kubernetes of service mesh.” Companies turn to microservices and service mesh to power their digital transformation initiatives. In fact, the 2022 Service Mesh Adoption Survey shows that 85 percent of companies are modernizing their applications to a microservices architecture. As they do so, they are faced with the challenge of managing an ever-complex application environment with multiple services -- and that’s where service mesh enters the picture.

In 2023, companies will be even more focused on simplifying their technology processes. And as more companies connect microservices with faster, more reliable application development -- they will be looking at service mesh, and more specifically, Istio. In our research, we found that companies chose an Istio-based service mesh by an almost three-to-one margin to boost application reliability and security. Istio’s strong alignment with Kubernetes is a key part of its continual uptake. Remember that many users are still running their services on VMs or bare metal, so it is critical for service mesh projects to provide a smooth transition to containers. Istio supports this transition. Also, as companies look to simplify their security and risk mitigation planning, they will recognize Istio as the best option. Security in Istio delivers strong policy, encryption, authentication, authorization, and audit features to protect services and data.

Service meshes will play an even greater role in helping organizations secure their applications and networks

As Istio becomes an integral part of organizations’ cloud-native stack of technologies (along with Kubernetes, all things open source), it will also become a key part of bolstering security within companies. We will see more government agencies and commercial organizations adopt Istio to strengthen zero-trust mandates within technology infrastructure.

Today, software security still has significant holes, and a missed patch or single misconfiguration can open the door for a breach or hack. For companies moving to the cloud-native architecture of microservices and containerized applications, the risk is even greater. Companies must think beyond protecting the perimeter and the network, and factor in the multiple connections between microservice containers. With microservices, the "at-risk" surface area has increased exponentially. 

A service mesh can help companies that use microservices by combining security and operations into a single infrastructure layer that sits between the containerized application and the network. This is the convergence of zero-trust network security and service mesh technology. A service mesh can help mitigate service impersonation, unauthorized access, and data exfiltration attacks -- not to mention, a service mesh can help manage encryption, authentication, authorization, policy control, and configuration. And with role-based access control (RBAC), service mesh supports the zero-trust philosophy of "trust no one, authenticate everyone."

Embracing change by leveraging the right tech in the year ahead 

It’s fair to say that the last two years have brought a multitude of challenges for organizations, and 2023 is set to be no different. As organizations look to not just survive, but thrive during uncertain times, they need to adapt to this 'new era' of digital transformation. 

Businesses have already implemented the latest technologies into their day-to-day processes. However, if they truly want to be able to leverage them to their full potential, it’s essential to ensure that ecosystems can work together, efficiently and securely. That’s why next year will be crucial, especially for the open source community. The industry’s innovators must continue prioritizing collaboration and taking it to the ‘next level’, as solutions like service meshes are becoming even more important for today’s enterprises. 

Photo Credit: vinzstudio/Shutterstock

Idit Levine is Founder and CEO of Solo.io. She founded Solo.io with the idea to create tools that help organizations meaningfully adopt cloud-native technologies alongside their existing IT investments. Idit has a long history in cloud, infrastructure and open source in both startup and large enterprise companies. Prior to Solo.io she was CTO of the EMC Cloud Management Division, a member of the global CTO office, and held technical leadership roles at Dynamic Ops, VMware, CloudSwitch, and Verizon.

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