ActiveState 2016 Open Source Survey

We had a tremendous response to our first open source survey and on behalf of ActiveState I’d like to thank the 867 people who gave their time and thoughts.
Our infographic has some great highlights from the survey, please check it out. To accompany that, we’ll dig deeper into the data and provide a few visualizations to surface some of the more interesting bits.


The survey was sent out to our ActiveState customers, industry contacts, social media followers and through our website. To show how international this survey is, only 56% of people were self-identified as being from North America, the next biggest group was 23% from Europe, and 9% were from Asia Pacific.

Self-Identified RoleDeveloperSysAdmin – Ops – DevOpsIT or Dev ManagerCTO – CIONon-technical RoleStudent – Not currentlyemployedOther49.8%17.1%12%10.1%

Answer Respondents
Developer 398
SysAdmin – Ops – DevOps 81
IT or Dev Manager 96
CTO – CIO 30
Non-technical Role 17
Student – Not currently employed 41
Other 137

Approximately a quarter of those surveyed identified themselves as being from organizations with 500+ employees. Of those, about 41% are from the IT/Software industry with the next largest group being Education at 10% and Government/Military at about 9%, Healthcare at 7% and Finance at 6%.

Programming Languages In Use

There is no question that the use of open source languages is a huge and growing trend globally. Instead of looking at what is most popular, or someone’s personal favourite, we wanted to know what’s actively being used. Our survey had a selection of 18 open source programming languages. We asked people to select a language if they or their organization were using it. Of course with hundreds of languages we could only list a subset of the top open source languages or it would be onerous to go through, but we provided an area where people could write in other choices. And they did – 150 people choose to tell us about other languages they used.
Overall the top five languages in the survey were:
JavaScript with its universal appeal on the client and now on the server side with node. In addition, JavaScript is finding a home in other frameworks targeted towards mobile development. This language shows its flexibility and is a tool that must be part of everyone’s toolkit.
Java was very well represented, as it is in almost every language survey, and showed its continued strength in the programming world.
Python was a strong third place. Python has been seemingly ubiquitous the last few years as its appeal has only strengthened particularly in the scientific computing arena. It is the multi-talented language, used for web apps to scripting to machine learning.
Perl, a favourite here at ActiveState, finished a very respectable fourth showing how frequently it is found in most environments, even if it no longer gets the headlines.
PHP was the fifth most popular language in our survey and whose claim to fame is the numerous website content management systems and general web frameworks it supports. C++ was only a slight fraction behind and gets an honourable mention. Again it appears that there is always web application work to be done and PHP is often the tool of choice.
The next most used languages, in order, were; C, C#, Ruby, R, Tcl, Swift, Groovy, Go, Scala, and Lua. Top “write-in” open source languages were Fortran, Powershell, and COBOL.

Languages Conclusion

Probably the most striking finding was that respondents used an average of five different programming languages. And that does not include the various markup and domain specific languages that we filtered out nor does it include the proprietary languages.
Secondly, from this list you can see the universal appeal of the C-family of languages. It is a polyglot language world where both individuals and enterprises need to be conversant in many languages. The right tool for the job has never been more important than it is today and Open Source languages are leading the way.

Enterprise Requirements for Open Source Languages

For this section we focused on just those respondents in medium to large scale companies. Larger companies are using more open source technologies than ever before to deliver the value they rely on for their day to day business needs. Here is what our survey uncovered regarding support for open source languages.
Does your company require open source language support?

Open Source Language SupportYesNoNot Sure38.7%38.7%22.5%

Answer Respondents
Yes 86
No 50
Not Sure 86

Now let’s do a thought experiment and if take the undecideds split them evenly and see what we get:

Open Source Language Support – Yes/NoYesNo41.9%58.1%

Answer Respondents
Yes 129
No 93

So overall language support is required more often than not all other things being equal.
Here is an area inside of companies that is not often looked at and usually has requirements around the use of open source. These are the needs of the legal and/or compliance team, using a similar experiment to split the undecideds:

Compliance/Legal Needing Open Source SupportYesNo43.1%56.9%

Answer Respondents
Yes 124
No 94

The need for languages support and the needs of compliance and legal make a fairly compelling picture for the demand for open source within the enterprise, and for good reason!

Cloud Technologies

The move to cloud-centric workloads and technologies has been underway for a decade now since Amazon Web Services first launched in 2006. In that time, the move towards flexible on-demand computing services has grown in leaps and bounds. In our infographic we mention that 54% of respondents are using the cloud for hosting their apps or doing specific workloads. Digging deeper, one of the newest trends is using containers to deploy applications to the cloud so we asked what the overall usage was of containers in your organization:

Using Containers – % of respondentsIndividuals & SmallCompaniesLarge Companies 500+Employees010203040

Answer % Respondents
Individuals & Small Companies 24
Large Companies 500+ Employees 37

We can see that of those respondents who knew what containers were, large organizations were more likely to be using this technology, which makes sense as they are likely to have larger scale requirements or require faster startup times than is possible with Virtual Machine based setups. It is also clearly in the early innings of this technology as this question was skipped over more than any other question we posted.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all of ActiveState’s languages are compatible with cloud, virtual machine and container environments.

Software Methodologies and Processes

One of the most fascinating parts of the survey was which software development methodologies and processes are in use. Respondents were asked to select all that applied.

Methodology – % of respondentsTest Driven DevelopmentScrumContinuous IntegrationContinuous DeploymentWaterfallKanbanExtreme Programming01020304050

Answer % Respondents
Test Driven Development 49.4
Scrum 44.7
Continuous Integration 36.2
Continuous Deployment 29.8
Waterfall 23.9
Kanban 16.1
Extreme Programming 13.4

You could call this the “Kent Beck Spectrum” as he is one of the leading proponents of Test Driven Development, and this method was tops at almost 50% usage. However, the least selected in the survey was Mr. Beck’s own Extreme Programming. Scrum and Extreme are forms of the Agile methodology, of which Mr. Beck was also part of the original group that created the Agile Manifesto. Scrum is in high use coming in at 45%. The waterfall methodology has been largely replaced in most development processes and as such is a ways down the list. Kanban also had a poor showing considering how much exposure it has had in the DevOps movement. This poor showing may also be attributed to the operational management and IT crowd being under-represented in our survey respondents.

Big Data

We felt it was important to see what sort of trends are happening in the enterprise around large scale storage software. The results below are limited to organizations of 500 people and above as they are most likely to have this use case.

Big Data – % of respondents using eachRelational(SQL)HadoopNoSQLOther0255075100

Answer % Respondents
Relational (SQL) 91.8
Hadoop 23.3
NoSQL 19.2
Other 16.5

No surprise here that relational database systems are found throughout these companies. Hadoop had a very strong showing, and NoSQL databases have been gaining in popularity for years now.

Development Areas

Here were the top software development areas listed in order for companies of 500 people or larger:

  • Web Applications
  • Scripting to Interface Different Systems
  • Desktop Applications
  • Big Data Analysis
  • Mobile Applications

Machine learning and embedded/IoT programming were tied for 6th but significantly smaller than those areas in the top 5.


We learned an incredible amount from the survey, both putting it together and analyzing the data. Thanks again to everyone that participated and we look forward to making this an annual event. It looks to be another exciting year for open source technologies and ActiveState is proud to be part of so many high quality open source communities.

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