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Tracking the explosive growth of open-source software

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Many hot new enterprise technologies are centered around free, “open-source” technology. But how can corporate customers, and investors, evaluate all..
Many of today’s hottest new enterprise technologies are centered around free, “open-source” technology. As a result, many big companies — from financial giants to retailers to services firms — are building their businesses around new, community-based technology that represents a sea change from the IT practices of the past.
But how can corporate customers — and investors — evaluate all these new open-source offerings? How can they tell which projects (often strangely named: Ansible, Vagrant, Gradle) are generating the most customer traction? Which ones have the biggest followings among software developers, and the most potential to capture market share?
These questions are especially tough to answer because most open-source companies are still private, and don’t have to disclose key user and financial metrics. (Though that’s changing — open-source giant Cloudera recently announced plans to go public, increasing the market’s focus on open-source technology.)
That’s why we decided to create a new, detailed index to track popular open-source software projects, and gain some insights into the new companies powered by these technologies. It is the Battery Open-Source Software Index (BOSS Index), which we’ve spent months putting together with publicly available information and are introducing here. We hope to update it quarterly — and the index should gain more relevance as more open-source companies using some of these projects grow and go public.
The index contains 40 open-source projects, gleaned from an initial scouring of projects listed on the GitHub source-code repository site, as well as Datamation, an enterprise-IT publication that also tracks open-source projects. The top 25 are listed below, and the full list can be found on our website.
We focused on projects in enterprise IT-related areas like IT operations, including technology powering operating and provisioning systems; data and analytics, including tools for artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as databases; and DevOps, which includes projects focused on the hot new trend of “containers,” which help people develop software quickly in a sort of self-contained environment.
Companies ranked according to four factors. Overall project rating represents the geometric mean of two of the four individual scores, which reflect online discussion activity; search activity; jobs impact; and GitHub activity. All data is as of February 9, 2017.
There are some very well-known names on the list, including projects that have spawned big companies. They include Linux, which underlies Red Hat; MySQL, which powers the company of the same name and was bought by Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle) for $1 billion in 2008; and Hadoop, which brought us Cloudera and Hortonworks.
But some more-obscure names, like Selenium, also rank highly, indicating there is plenty of grassroots innovation happening in the open-source sector — and many new projects out there that are spawning valuable companies. Still, our research also found that having lots of users for your open-source project does not automatically translate into creating a commercially viable company.
We ranked the projects according to four factors, which included:
Because some projects may have done extremely well, or poorly, on certain criteria — perhaps one had an off-the-charts Google search number, but a sub-par job-postings score — we threw out the top and bottom individual-criteria scores for each project.

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