Open Source in the 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

To truly thrive, organizations need to adopt practices and capabilities that will lead them to performance improvements. Therefore, having access to data-driven insights and recommendations about the most effective and efficient ways to develop and deliver technology is critical. Over the past seven years, the DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) has collected data from more than 32,000 industry professionals and used rigorous statistical analysis to deepen our understanding of the practices that lead to excellence in technology delivery and to powerful business outcomes.
One of the most valuable insights that has come from this research is the categorization of organizations on four different performance profiles (Elite, High, Medium, and Low) based on their performance on four software delivery metrics centered around throughput and stability - Deployment Frequency, Lead Time for Changes, Time to Restore Service and Change Failure Rate. We found that organizations that excel at these four metrics can be classified as elite performers while those that do not can be classified as low performers. See DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) for a detailed description of these metrics and the different levels of organizational performance.

DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) showing a detailed description of these metrics and the different levels of organizational performance

We have found that a number of technical capabilities are associated with improved continuous delivery performance. Our findings indicate that organizations that have incorporated loosely coupled architecture, continuous testing and integration, truck-based development, deployment automation, database change management, monitoring and observability and have leveraged open source technologies perform better than organizations that have not adopted these capabilities.

Now that you know a little bit about what DORA is and some of its key findings, let’s dive into whether the use of open source technologies within organizations impacts performance.

A quick Google search will yield hundreds (if not, thousands) of articles describing the myriad of ways organizations benefit from using open source software—faster innovation, higher quality products, stronger security, flexibility, ease of customization, etc. We know using open source software is the way to go, but until recently, we still had little empirical evidence demonstrating that its use is associated with improved organizational performance – until today.

This year, we surveyed 1,200 working professionals from a variety of industries around the globe about the factors that drive higher performance, including the use of open source software. Research from this year’s DORA report illustrates that low performing organizations have the highest use of proprietary software. In contrast, elite performers are 1.75 times more likely to make extensive use of open source components, libraries, and platforms. We also find that elite performers are 1.5 times more likely to have plans to expand their use of open source software compared to their low-performing counterparts. But, the question remains—does leveraging open source software impact an organization’s performance? Turns out the answer is, yes!

Our research also found that elite performers who meet their reliability targets are 2.4 times more likely to leverage open source technologies. We suspect that the original tenets of the open source movement of transparency and collaboration play a big role. Developers are less likely to waste time reinventing the wheel which allows them to spend more time innovating, they are able to leverage global talent instead of relying on the few people in their team or organization.

Technology transformations take time, effort, and resources. They also require organizations to make significant mental shifts. These shifts are easier when there is empirical evidence backing recommendations—organizations don’t have to take someone’s word for it, they can look at the data, look at the consistency of findings to know that success and improvement are in fact possible.

In addition to open source software, the 2021 Accelerate State of DevOps Report discusses a variety of capabilities and practices that drive performance. In the 2021 report, we also examined the effects of SRE best practices, the pandemic and burnout, the importance of quality documentation, and we revisited our exploration of leveraging the cloud. If you’d like to read the full report or any previous report, you can visit

By Daniella Villalba and Dustin Smith, user Experience Researchers (Google Cloud, Google Cloud Platform)