January 29, 2009 Leave a comment
Many business executives are looking for more ways to cut costs during these tough times and have a mandate to “do more with less.” Open source software fits the bill perfectly as it has little or no upfront costs, licensing flexibility (often times you can install on as many PCs you want and for as much users as you need) , development flexibility (the source code and APIs can be customized, the platform and toolkits are readily available), and the fact that many open source projects actually have better and larger support communities than proprietary products..
This year may actually be a turning point in the adoption of open source software as projects steadily mature (think Linux and MySQL) and interest among corporate users grow. According to a report released by research firm Gartner in November of last year, the adoption of open source software is becoming pervasive among large multinational organizations. Of the 274 surveyed by Gartner, 85% said they were currently using open source in their enterprises and the remaining 15% said they expect to use it in the next 12 months.
In deploying open source however some key challenges remain. In a survey conducted of last year by the Open Solutions Alliance or OSA, they found the following key areas that need to be addressed by open source vendors and solution providers:
- Partnering and Interoperability with Microsoft – An overwhelming majority of those surveyed report many of their systems still running on Microsoft Windows or are using Microsoft products within their organizations. Open Source vendors need to ensure that their products work well with Microsoft to grow and go mainstream. An open source vendor who is taking this advice to heart is SugarCRM and Alfreso. A couple of years back, SugarCRM announced a partnership with Microsoft to provide better support for running their CRM on Microsoft environments including PHP support for Windows, SQL Server support, and integration with widely used Office applications such as Outlook and Word. Alfresco, a developer of enterprise content management solutions, on the other hand announced being the first open source provider to provider support for Microsoft Sharepoint’s protocol–providing enterprise users access to a viable lower cost Sharepoint alternative from their Office applications.
- Partnering and Interoperability with other Open Source software solutions – This seems to be a growing concern, as companies standardize on an open source software infrastructure, interoperability among them becomes a concern. As it stands now a lot of community effort is underway to integrate some well known open source enterprise applications and services, some notable projects include Talend, Jitterbit, Apatar, Zivios, and more.
- Licensing and Governance Risk – Trying to understand and wade through the different licensing terms of different open source projects can be a challenge. The long term viability of some companies behind open source projects has also not been firmly established. Policies on governance of open source software for many organizations has also not yet been clearly establsihed. According to Gartner, “companies must have a policy for procuring OSS, deciding which applications will be supported by OSS, and identifying the intellectual property risk or supportability risk associated with using OSS.”
Despit these challenges, it is clear that time and current circumstances are on the side of open source, and adoption is only expected to increase within the next couple of months. Besides the US, adoption has been strong in Western Europe, and the growing economies of India and South Asia, East Asia (China and Japan), and to some extent Southeast Asia. Besides large corporations, target markets for many open source vendors include Small and Midsized businesses.