5 open source innovation forecasts for the 2020s

IBM’s CTO of Open Technology also looks back on the innovations of the past decade.

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Over the past decade, open source has played an important role in software development from containers to micro services, block chain and serverless.

Chris Ferris, chief technology officer of Open Technology at IBM, discusses some of the open source trends of the past decade and what to expect in 2020 and beyond.

SEE: Deploying containers: six critical concepts (TechRepublic)

Smaller, faster containers and micro services

The concepts of containers and microservices were only concepts before 2010, Ferris said. Then in 2013, Docker launched the first seeds from the container industry.

At the same time, microservices – and the technologies to make them possible – were supported in open source via the Netflix OSS project.

Docker became one of the most influential technologies of the 2010s, leading to a large number of new open source projects, including Kubernetes, which started in 2015.

Today, he noted, Kubernetes is the largest open source project in the world. Companies use the platform to transform monolithic application architectures and embrace containerized microservices that are supported by service mesh capabilities of projects such as Istio.

“In the next decade, we expect open source projects such as Istio, Kubernetes and OKD to focus on making containers and micro services smaller and faster to meet the needs of cloud-native development and to reduce the attack surface of the container “Ferris said.

OKD is the open source version of the OpenShift platform from Red Hat. “Keep an eye on unikernels (executable images that contain system libraries, a language runtime and necessary applications) that can also win thanks to the open source communities around them.”

Instant serverless workloads

AWS Lambda was released in 2014 and informed all PaaS services. Among other things, the release of Lambda was followed by IBM OpenWhisk (which became Apache OpenWhisk) in 2016. Both open source, distributed serverless platforms perform functions in response to events on any scale, Ferris said.

Kubernetes gained fame in the latter part of the decade, and fueled the desire to expand Kubernetes with capabilities that would make serverless possible. This led to Knative in 2018. Now, Knative has been split into multiple open source projects, including Tekton, each with their own set of innovations, he said.

In the coming years, Ferris said that we can expect containers to become smaller and faster. “The potential exists to have an environment that can run containers at very low costs, immediately,” he said.

Reliable artificial intelligence

IBM Watson made a huge splash when it appeared on “Jeopardy!” in 2011, bringing artificial intelligence to the mainstream. Now, according to Ferris, AI is part of our daily lives and we communicate daily with Siri and Alexa, talk regularly with customer service chatbots, use face recognition to unlock our gadgets and approach the arrival of fully autonomous self-driving cars.

AI and machine learning have made these innovations possible and many of the AI ​​improvements have come about thanks to open source projects such as TensorFlow and PyTorch, which started in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

In the next decade, Ferris emphasized the importance of making AI not only smarter and more accessible, but also more reliable. This ensures that AI systems make decisions fairly, are not vulnerable to manipulation and can be explained, he said.

Open source is the key to building this trust in AI. Projects such as the Adversarial Robustness 360 Toolkit, AI Fairness 360 Open Source Toolkit and AI Explainability 360 Open Source Toolkit have been created to ensure that trust is built into these systems from the start, he said.

Expect these projects and others from the Linux Foundation AI – such as the ONNX project – to drive the important innovation related to trusted AI in the future. The Linux Foundation AI offers a supplier-neutral exchange format for deep learning and machine learning.

New use for blockchain tracking capabilities

In 2008, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto published his now famous paper about bitcoin, which introduced the concept of a blockchain network, with the aim of being a decentralized cryptocurrency platform.

That innovation made people wonder about different ways in which blockchain concepts and technology can be applied in non-cryptocurrency usage scenarios – including in asset management, supply chains, healthcare and identity, Ferris said.

In 2015, IBM contributed its Open Blockchain project to the newly established Hyperledger organization, established to develop open source blockchain technology for the company. That contribution launched what is arguably one of the two or three most popular blockchain frameworks: Hyperledger Fabric, he said.

Although the first use of blockchain was limited to cryptocurrency, open source involvement with Hyperledger and Ethereum has expanded the possibilities for how this technology is used.

The company is investigating different approaches, not only to improve privacy, but also to build a set of nodes needed to get confirmation for a trust transaction – almost all in open source, he said.

Quantum processors available for developers

There has been a lot of buzz about the promise of quantum computing, and although an app with a “quantum benefit” has not yet been developed, the ability for developers to start using quantum processors is growing – and will continue to evolve over the next ten years, Ferris said.

With the open source Qiskit software framework from IBM, released in 2016, developers in Python can code on real quantum hardware for systems related to research, education, companies and even games.

“The possibilities for how quantum computing solves and interacts with today’s technology seem endless … quantum computing can affect a wide range of domains such as chemistry, finance, artificial intelligence and others,” he said.
That requires an “important hardware environment,” Ferris said.

Open source in the coming years

Open source is the best mechanism to bring about these changes, he insisted. That is what ideas such as microsystems, which came from the virtualization space, and Knative van Kubernetes produced.

“That would not have happened in the closed source space, so it is a matter of everyone building on the successes of others and someone passing by and saying,” Here’s a better idea, “he said.

Working together, developers have the power to change entire industries, Ferris believes. “I can’t think of anything that was developed exclusively in closed source and ultimately did not come out in open source.”

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