LF Research: One Year Recap and Imagining the Future

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When I started at The Linux Foundation (LF) a few weeks ago, our research was one of the first things I dug into as I absorbed and learned what all the LF does to advance open source. Plus, since I started, it seems like the LF Research team has published a new report every few days. What a wealth of information!

So, imagine my surprise when I learned that LF Research has just been around for one year. April 15th marked their one year birthday – and they have set the bar high in their first year. 

But are they making a difference? I know my inclination, especially having spent time working in government, is that research reports get published and then sit on virtual shelves, never to be seen again. But LF Research uses the open source model of bringing people together to solve problems and to share the solutions widely. They engage LF members and the community, across the ecosystem, to answer the question, what are the tools we can create, together, for shared value. And, importantly, their reports focus on action items.

Over the past twelve months, LF Research has published 12 reports across a variety of topics and industry verticals. Each of them are presented below. Take time to look at their work, dig in deeper on topics that interest you, and then go, make a difference. 

And  stay tuned for more impactful research in 2022 on topics such as cybersecurity insights in the developer process, mentorship, a guide to enterprise open source, an updated state of the open source program office, a new jobs report, and much, much more.

The Carbon Footprint of NFTs – NFTs are simultaneously overhyped and met with both skepticism and a general lack of understanding on what they are and how they work. Serious concerns have also been raised over energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanisms. The report, just released last week, studies the concern that energy-intensive PoW consensus mechanisms for NFTs have a significant impact on the climate. The report details the changes taking place in the blockchain industry to address this issue, and describes howNFTs can have varying carbon footprints depending on their underlying technology stacks. Read it to learn how we can make a difference now.

AI and Data in Open Source – The report reviews critical challenges in the open source AI ecosystem, such as the talent shortage, the trust gap for AI-enabled products, implementing and verifying trusted and responsible AI systems and processes, and more. But, with challenges are opportunities – opportunities that could change the world. Imagine how marrying AI with edge computing enhances performance and real-time decision making, or how CDLA licenses enable wider sharing and use of open data and the innovation that sparks in AI and machine learning models. The report also reviews how the LF AI & Data Foundation is empowering innovators and accelerating open source development. Read the full report and get excited!

Paving the Way to Battle Climate Change: How Two Utilities Embraced Open Source to Speed Modernization of the Electric Grid – New technology has to be easy to use and workable to be adopted widely enough to make a difference – this holds true in electricity production. As the energy sector innovates to do its part to arrest climate change, it must find solutions to ease the adoption of new energy sources. As the electricity infrastructure modernizes, electricity is provided into the grid from a variety of sources – homes, business, wind and solar farms, etc. – rather than just from the local power plant. It goes from TSOs (main power lines) to DSOs (the “last mile” so to speak). Netherlands’ Alliander, a DSO, and France’s RTE, a TSO, contributed to three LF Energy projects (SEAPATH, CoMPAS, and OpenSTEF) so their electrical substations will become more modular, interoperable, and scalable. This report digs into the case studies to show how working together via open source enables them to develop more software solutions up to ten times faster than working on their own proprietary solutions.

Open Source in Entertainment: How the Academy Software Foundation Creates Shared Value – Truth be told, when I try to explain open source software and what we foster at the LF among my friends and family, I use the Academy Software Foundation as an example. I mean, let’s be honest, movies are way more interesting and relatable than software supply chains or licensing. The ASWF also serves as a stellar example of why companies would want to join forces and collaborate on a common software solution – let’s share resources to make the foundational tools together and then innovate on top of that on our own. We can all grow together by raising the foundation we start at. This report is a story about industry competitors, who, by working together, have shared and developed the technologies used to create mesmerizing visual effects for professional studios and filmmaking enthusiasts alike. It should spark open source innovation in other industries too (see FINOS below). 

Census II of Free and Open Source Software – Application Libraries – There are more software vulnerabilities out there than there are resources available to fix them, so knowing which ones are more widely utilized and which ones are used in more critical instances allows for better resource prioritization. Makes sense, right? This report builds on the Census I report, which focused on the lower level critical operating system libraries and utilities. It utilizes data from partner Software Composition Analysis (SCA) companies including Synk, the Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center (CyRC), and FOSSA.  They looked at over half a million observations of Free and Open Source Software libraries used in production applications at thousands of companies.  See the data and read the report written by and see the data here

The Evolution of the Open Source Program Office – The TODO Group is an LF project community to help organizations run successful and effective open source program offices or similar open source initiatives. This report was produced in partnership with them to provide rich insight, direction, and tools to implement an OSPO or an open source initiative with corporate, academic, or public sector environments. It also has case studies from Bloomberg, Comcast, and Porsche – the last of which was especially cool for the car geek in me. Check it out here

The State of the Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) and Cybersecurity Readiness – An SBOM is a formal and machine-readable metadata that uniquely identifies a software package and its contents. It allows organizations to quickly and accurately determine which software applications and libraries are used and where so they can effectively address vulnerabilities. The report offers fresh insight into the state of SBOM readiness and helps organizations looking to better understand SBOMs as an important tool in securing software supply chains. They need to be adopted now – so go read the report.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Source – Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the technology industry — and within open source specifically—is an opportunity we need to continuously leverage for the benefits it brings. In addition to the survey findings on the state of DEI, this research explores a number of DEI initiatives and their efficacy and recommends action items for the entire stakeholder ecosystem to further their efforts and build inclusion by design. Access the report here.

Data and Storage Trends Report – The SODA Foundation is an open source project under the Linux Foundation that fosters an ecosystem of open source data management and storage software for data autonomy. The report is based on a survey in English, Chinese, and Japanese-speaking markets to identify the current challenges, gaps, and trends for data and storage in the era of Cloud Native, edge, AI, and 5G. The intention is to use this survey data to help guide the SODA Foundation and its surrounding ecosystem on important issues and help its members be better equipped to make decisions, improve their products, and the SODA Foundation to establish new technical directions.

The State of Open Source in Financial Services Report – While the financial services industry has been a long-time consumer of open source software, contributing to software and standards development has not been at the core of their business models and tech strategies. This report creates a baseline of their current activities, highlights obstacles and challenges to improving industry-wide collaboration, and lays out a set of actionable insights for improving the state of open source in financial services. You can read the report here

9th Annual Open Source Jobs Report – ​​ The LF partnered with edX to shed light on the changes and challenges in the global open source jobs market. Employers can use its actionable insights to inform their hiring, training, and diversity awareness efforts. It also gives professionals clear, unbiased insights on which skills are most marketable and how reskilling and certifications benefit job seekers. Dig in here

Hyperledger Brand Study – The study explores the state of the enterprise blockchain market and the Hyperledger brand. It looks at whether enterprises have or are considering adopting blockchain, which solutions they are familiar with, what are desirable attributes of solutions, what problems they are addressing with blockchain technology, and much, much more. You can read the results and access the underlying data here

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