Open Source Joins the Mainstream

February 19, 2009 by Michael Hitzek, SAP.info

Current surveys confirm Richard Seibt’s positive assessment. In 40 percent of all companies that use open source software, it is of mission-critical importance. In a further 43 percent, open source software plays a significant role in the corporate IT environment. This was revealed in a survey presented by Heise Verlag in Nuremberg. Most of the around 1,300 survey participants came from companies that used open source software.

According to the survey, open source meets user requirements “to a great extent.” Satisfaction with open source software tends to increase as its role in the company IT strategy grows. The biggest problem in implementing and using open source software in a business context is integrating it with the existing software, the survey discovered. A lack of qualified staff was also identified as a cause for concern.

Open source – not just cheap and cheerful

In its essence, the Heise results of the survey tally with studies by Gartner and Forrester published in 2008. They came to the conclusion that open source is especially common in the infrastructure area – that is, operating systems, networks, and databases.

In the discussions, presentations, and workshops at the Open Source Meets Business conference, two statements popped up again and again:

  • The open source industry wants to move away from the image of being a cheap alternative to proprietary software. Instead, the capabilities of open source software must be highlighted.
  • Open source must become established as an integral part of corporate IT strategies.

The general tenor was that lower level solutions are often developed with open source software – cheaply, quickly, and efficiently. Frequently though, the IT or company managers don’t hear about such projects. “Sometimes an open source evangelist is what’s needed in a company to trigger the integration of open source into the IT strategy,” says Sandro Groganz, open source marketing consultant and founder of InitMarketing.

Combining open source and proprietary software

In spite of an underlying optimism, some criticism was voiced at the Open Source Meets Business conference. First, to create a viable business application, it is sometimes necessary to plug together lots of small open source solutions. And second, in the price debate, it is important to mention that various providers of open source software charge their own license fees for enterprise software, and that additional costs are incurred for services from the provider or for employee training.

Nevertheless, Dr. Uwe Schmid, senior expert at the McKinsey Business Technology Office in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, predicts: “Open source will continue to grow – away from pure IT infrastructure and into business applications.” And here, according to Mark Yolton, head of the SAP Community Network, the right combination of open source and proprietary software is crucial.

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