Whether public, private or hybrid, the cloud has reached a tipping point in global business. It has emerged to be the de facto foundation for market-leading organizations seeking to develop, deploy and operationalize compelling customer experiences. And in the process, it has begun to transform entire industries.

The cloud is the integrated platform for rapid and innovative development of next-generation apps and services, and is benefiting businesses by helping them increase productivity, differentiation and competitiveness. According to IDC, more than 90% of new software is being built for cloud delivery. But how do companies optimize the ability to compete given the unprecedented velocity of technology innovation?

(Related: IBM partners up for cloud-based virtual machines)

The key is opening the door to an open cloud architecture. From startups to stalwarts, tomorrow’s winners will lead an IT renaissance driven by open-source code, community and culture.

The value of an open cloud architecture lies in its ability to dynamically grow capability, leverage open-source community innovations, tap into the ready market availability of first-rate development and integration skills, and eliminate proprietary cloud vendor lock-in.

An open governance model—opening the kimono, if you will—to potentially millions of willing participants means that complex software problems are solved and robust opportunities pursued within an ecosystem that is strong and collaborative because of its very openness.

And the cloud-enhanced benefits of open source can make all the difference for organizations aching to elbow ahead of the competition.

The fast path to the unicorn
Today’s business environment is defined by speed. And “old school” software development models focused on homogenous work groups cannot keep up with the rapid pace of change required.

Open source removes that limitation by enabling an army of geographically dispersed, interoperable participants to learn common development techniques. And quite an army it is; Evans Data Group estimates there will be more than 25 million cloud developers by 2020.

This approach thereby accelerates the “fast path to the unicorn,” which is the notion that innovation can propel a company of any size to differentiate successfully. A major healthcare provider turned to a hybrid cloud environment in an effort to improve time-to-market for front-office and mobile applications that would improve the digital customer experience for patients. Its open-source, Platform-as-a-Service approach significantly streamlined development, thus optimizing the time spent creating new applications.

More than 80% of organizations are headed to hybrid cloud models, according to IDC. Because a hybrid cloud-based innovation platform provides a common experience and set of APIs for developers on both sides of the firewall, it enables users to take advantage of a larger innovation community.

Clearly, a broader base of developers (from all skills levels) can come together and quickly contribute to one common cause and goal. Removing that barrier to access unleashes a vitally important benefit of an open-source approach: It enables organizations to attract, inspire and retain talent that otherwise may have been unwilling to participate in a more rigid or closed environment. And, it encourages companies to do even more with the talent they already have.

That is especially important when more than 80% of U.S. companies surveyed in 2015 reported a shortage of software developers, primarily because of unqualified local talent. Capturing developers from around the world who can build the next great innovations is a competitive imperative for any organization.

In addition, an open cloud approach will enable companies to extract deeper insights from vast quantities of structured and unstructured data. Because an open environment can optimize the ability to integrate analytics into business processes in real time, companies can leverage those insights to be more agile in meeting (and exceeding) customer expectations.

Further, an open cloud platform has been shown to improve the speed and quality of the entire DevOps process. A global financial services company that moved to an open cloud development framework reduced the time required for software releases by a whopping 99%, thereby accelerating market deployment while saving millions in cost.

Today, no business function or process is an island. Everything is connected. Open technologies (and the cloud) are the linchpins that help facilitate and accelerate the execution of innovations that will bring visions to life.

Companies should demand that their cloud providers and other key partners use open-source technologies, because if they don’t, they—and their vision—may be left in the dust.