Open Source Thriving in Enterprise
- By Stephen Swoyer
- December 09, 2008
According to a new survey from business intelligence (BI) specialist Actuate
Corp., open source software (OSS) doesn't simply have a token presence in the
enterprise; it has truly arrived. The survey paints a picture of a thriving
OSS ecosystem, with an enterprise adoption rate that hovers at nearly 50 percent
in the United States, and exceeds 60 percent in France and Germany.
Actuate's findings support those of market watcher Gartner Inc., whose study
found that fully 85
percent of respondents (in a sample that included companies in North America,
Europe, Asia-Pacific and other regions) have adopted OSS technologies. Anecdotal
accounts also peg open source adoption rates in the EU as higher than those
in the United States.
Not surprisingly, Linux spearheads the enterprise open source push: Nearly
half (45.6 percent) of respondents say they've deployed Linux. The Apache Web
server -- which has nearly as much brand currency as Linux itself -- is second
in Actuate's tally, in use by about 44 percent of respondents.
Other OSS standouts include the Tomcat application server (used by almost 33
percent of adopters), Mozilla's Web browser (27.6 percent), MySQL database (27.2
percent) and the Eclipse IDE (25.8 percent). The PHP scripting language is used
by just over one-fifth (21.6 percent) of respondents, and the JBoss application
server is used by one-seventh (14.7 percent).
The Actuate survey paints a somewhat unsurprising portrait of the ways OSS
is commonly deployed. For example, just over three-quarters (75.6 percent) of
respondents say they use OSS to support their application development efforts,
while more than half (53.9 percent) use OSS operating system platforms. Elsewhere,
nearly half (47.9 percent) use MySQL or other OSS databases, 41 percent use
OSS middleware (such as Tomcat, JBoss, Mule or other technologies), and more
than a third (35.5 percent) use OSS "personal productivity tools"
(including OpenOffice, among others.)
Finally, more than a quarter (26.3. percent) of survey-takers say they tap
OSS technologies to power their enterprise reporting or BI efforts.
Respondents cite a range of benefits, primarily OSS' "no cost" licensing
model. Fully 60 percent of respondents rated OSS' cost as its most attractive
feature, while just over half (50.8 percent) cited its flexibility. "Vendor
independence" (cited by 43 percent of respondents), "access to source
code" (42.6 percent) and "built on open platform(s)" (40.0 percent)
also rated highly.
Intriguingly, nearly one-third (32.6 percent) of respondents lauded OSS because
it's "not locked into Microsoft," while -- in a similar vein -- 31.8
percent cited OSS' "standards-based technology" as a strong selling
point. Open source proponents like to trumpet both the involvement of the OSS
community and the quality of OSS code, which they claim comprise additional
selling points. Respondents to the Actuate survey, on the other hand, rate both
factors a comparatively low 23.6 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively. Indeed,
a still-oblique OSS support story complicates the OSS adoption narrative. Nearly
half (48.2 percent) of respondents cited questions about the availability of
long-term support as a barrier to OSS adoption, while 43.3 percent singled out
the "availability of long-term maintenance" as a similar concern.
Nevertheless, a clear majority (53.8 percent) of respondents feel that OSS'
benefits outweigh its drawbacks.
OSS still has some ground to make up in other areas. Just 10.2 percent of respondents
said that open source software is a "preferred" option when procuring
software; more than a third (37.9 percent) said that it's an "explicitly
considered" option. On the other hand, nearly half (43.2 percent) said
OSS isn't considered as a procurement option, while 8.7 percent said that their
parent organizations actually have policies which prohibit the use of OSS.
A Tale of Two Hemispheres
OSS adoption is greatest in Germany, where nearly two-thirds (63.6 percent) of
respondents say they're using open source software. France is another big OSS
booster, where 61.6 percent of respondents have adopted open source technologies.
Adoption is only 41.1 percent in the United Kingdom.
This coincides to a degree with the experiences of OSS vendors. Vincent Pineau,
general manager of the Americas with OSS data integration specialist Talend,
said that U.S. companies have been slower -- compared to firms in Germany and
other continental European nations -- to warm up to the value of "commercial"
or "enterprise-grade" open source. That's a scheme in which a vendor
such as Talend provides not just indemnification -- which Pineau said is a must-have
in the U.S. market -- but service, support and accelerated development cycles.
"U.S. companies are coming to that right now. My counterpart in Europe
has gone past that issue about a year-and-a-half ago. In the European Union,
the big companies have already come to that," he says.
Nick Halsey, vice president of marketing and product management with OSS reporting
specialist JasperSoft, agreed. "JasperReports was founded in Romania, and
iReport -- the graphical design tool for JasperReports -- was started in Italy,
so we were strong in Europe for years before the U.S.," he said.
Halsey and other industry players expect that the ongoing economic crisis could
to a sharp surge in interest in OSS technologies.
Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.