10 best open source projects of 2012

As we enter 2013, here's a list of of the top open source success stories for 2012

  • Apache Hadoop
  • MongoDB
  • OpenStack
  • Pentaho
  • PostgreSQL
  • Joomla
  • WordPress
  • DotNetNuke
  • SugarCRM
  • Audacity
  • Play
  • Play
  • Backward
  • Forward

It's that time when we look back at the year that was and speculate about what's in store for the next. This is my list of the top open source success stories for 2012.

Apache Hadoop

In many ways, 2012 has been the year of Big Data. Several distributors of Hadoop are vying for the market lead. Hortonworks, Cloudera and MapR are just three of the leaders, but the big boys, like IBM, are using Hadoop as well. The Big Data revolution is only going to get bigger, and it seems that open source Hadoop has cemented its leadership position.


Hand-in-hand with the Big Data revolution has been the development of non-relational databases required to do all of this Big Data analysis. While it is too early to declare a winner in the NoSQL race, MongoDB from 10Gen seems to be leading the pack in terms of mind share and customers, not to mention capital raised. With a successful team of tech veterans, MongoDB is generally acknowledged as the leader, even by its competitors.


Since its genesis as part of a NASA/Rackspace joint effort, dozens of companies have signed on in support of OpenStack. Its widespread support has become something of a double-edged sword, with critics pointing out that, although a lot of companies claim to support it, it's unclear how many are actually contributing to or even using OpenStack. Still, there are more than 6,000 lines of code in OpenStack, so someone is doing something. Despite having to contend with Amazon and CloudStack, OpenStack is firmly entrenched in the cloud market.


Pentaho built a big business in business intelligence, integrating with Hadoop partners as well as NoSQL companies. It also had a big year in raising capital and winning customers. While those in the know recognise Pentaho for the powerhouse it is, if you are not in its market, it may be new to you.


While there has been a lot of noise around NoSQL databases, the traditional relational database space has not exactly dried up, either. While many view Oracle's ownership of MySQL as the worst thing that could happen to open source databases, it has opened a window for another open source SQL database to gain traction. PostgreSQL and EnterpriseDB, the company selling commercial support and services for PostgreSQL, have been on a great roll lately.


The web content management space is just chock-full of great open source choices. You could pick any of the top choices and not go wrong. What has really helped Joomla is positioning itself as a platform that supports lots of different apps and extensions to give users more power and flexibility in building a web presence.


While Joomla positions itself as a web platform, WordPress has made its bones as the blog platform of choice. There are claims that WordPress is the most popular WCM platform, but it's hard to know for sure. What I do know is that I use WordPress for my personal blogs, and I love it. The plug-in catalogue continues to grow. There is virtually nothing you can't do with a WordPress blog. While security concerns were an issue in years past, we don't hear as much about them anymore.


While not as big as the other two WCM platforms on our list, DotNetNuke has had a banner year. Initially, Microsoft failed to give DNN, a tool for developing on Microsoft's .Net platform, the support it deserved. That seems to have changed. Microsoft has made DNN available on its Azure cloud platform and has even entered into a partnership to introduce DNN to more of the Microsoft channel. In the meantime, DNN continues to add lots of functionality around e-commerce, cloud-hosted options and much more.


Sugar has become an open source success story. For a long time, it was considered just an open source version of Salesforce.com. But it has emerged from Salesforce's shadow and become a CRM power in its own right. With lots of ways to consume Sugar, there is a model and price point for just about everyone. While continuing to innovate, Sugar has found its place.


While not a big commercial success like the rest of the open source projects on this list, I chose Audacity because personally I love using it and find it very useful. I am not aware of any commercial company offering support and services for Audacity, but who needs it? It just works. If you have to work with audio files, Audacity sets the bar for ease of use and powerful tools. It has been downloaded something like 70 million times, so that should say something.

It's that time when we look back at the year that was and speculate about what's in store for the next. This is my list of the top open source success stories for 2012.

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