The 10 Coolest Open-Source Products Of 2016 (So Far)

Participation Comes Into Vogue

Through the first half of 2016, open-source products haven't been a sideshow to the main events from fully proprietary products. Open-source products have been front and center, as a wave of new offerings in storage, containers, networking and other hot areas have been unveiled. And if Red Hat president and CEO Jim Whitehurst is right, this is still the early innings for open source. During the Red Hat Summit in June -- where the theme was "The Power of Participation" -- Whitehurst put his view this way: "Our ability to harness and distill the best ideas will determine human progress for the next century. … Our future depends on participation."

Here are the 10 coolest open-source products we've been tracking through the first half of 2016.

(For more on the "coolest" of 2016, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.")

Ceph Storage 2 (Red Hat)

In June Red Hat unveiled a major update to Ceph Storage, the company's open software-defined storage platform -- the first new version of the platform since Red Hat acquired the technology in 2014. The openness is a big deal, said Red Hat Storage Global Director of Product Marketing Ross Turk because it is "allowing people to use the power of software to break free of the restrictions of hardware."

"It's all about giving customers the ability to use whatever hardware they think is best for the workload," Turk told CRN.

Ceph Storage 2 introduces a new storage management system and new features geared toward object storage workloads, such as new global object storage clusters that offer better data synchronization between distributed clusters and other benefits.

Couchbase Server 4.5

Couchbase, which offers all of its database products as open source, in June debuted the new version of Couchbase Server that aims to ease the transition for enterprises from relational databases into the NoSQL world. Couchbase Server 4.5 includes new features -- such as better tools for visually exploring data models and building queries -- as well as enhancements to security and better performance on queries, according to Couchbase.

Cumulus Linux 3.0

Startup Cumulus Networks unveiled in May an updated release of its Linux Network Operating System, which aims to enable customers to get more bandwidth for addressing critical business issues. The new release of Cumulus Linux brought aboard additional hardware platforms that are compatible with its software, including two 100-Gbit platforms -- Mellanox SN2700 and Dell Z9100. Cumulus is ultimately looking to help enterprises build "web-scale" public and private clouds.

Docker 1.12

The new release of Docker aims to take away one of the biggest headaches associated with software containerization. New container orchestration features added to the core Docker Engine in 1.12 are intended to make it easy for users to deploy multicontainer applications on multiple machines -- as opposed to just using containers on a single machine. A new feature called Swarm Mode aims to enable container orchestration -- critical for resiliency, performance and security of distributed apps -- to happen automatically.

Habitat (Chef)

Habitat, an open-source product from IT automation firm Chef, aims to simplify key steps in the application creation process for users. Main elements of Habitat include a new system for packaging software, which bundles all the configuration options needed by the application with the app. Habitat also comes with a supervisor component, which ensures that the app configuration and other essentials are coordinated correctly.


In June, startup Mautic launched its new, open-source approach to marketing automation, which aims to let users run their email/social marketing in a more-customizable manner. The Mautic software is intended to be an open alternative to Marketo and Oracle-owned Eloqua. Through users can download the platform for free, while Mautic (the company) offers additional services and features -- such as a secure, hosted version of the service and an enterprise version.

Security Checker (Black Duck)

What could put a damper on the open-source software revolution? Security vulnerabilities, of course (remember Heartbleed?) Open-source security specialist Black Duck Software is aiming to get the word out about known security vulnerabilities in open-source software, through a free tool, Security Checker, that was released in May. Security Checker works by having users upload an archive file or Docker image, running a scan and then providing users with a report showing any known open-source security vulnerabilities that were identified.

Splice Machine

Startup Splice Machine began its life as a proprietary software firm, but in June, the relational database management company shifted gears. Splice Machine said that its database management system -- which leverages the Apache data processing technologies Hadoop and Spark -- has been opened up to the open-source community. The aim is to make it easier for developers to try out Splice Machine's relational database management system so that they can eventually become contributors to the evolution of the system and lead to wider enterprise deployment.

TensorFlow (Google)

Last fall, Google made a big move by open-sourcing its machine learning technology TensorFlow (which Google uses for speech recognition and photo search, among other functions). In June Google took another major step by opening up TensorFlow to support iOS -- meaning that the machine-learning software can be used by developers to make smarter apps for Apple devices.

Xamarin (Microsoft)

In mid-March, Microsoft said that its acquisition of mobile app development technology startup Xamarin had closed -- and the software giant followed that up a few weeks later by making the Xamarin open-source SDK free through Microsoft's Visual Studio toolkit. As CRN has reported, Xamarin's technology allows developers to build native apps for iOS, Android and Windows using Microsoft's C# programming language.