Survey: Open Source is Entering the Enterprise Mainstream

Open-source applications are gaining more approval in enterprises, particularly in the areas of operating systems, infrastructure applications, and development tools

Open-source solutions used to be adopted quietly by company boffins who snuck in an Apache Web server or an open-source development tool suite under the philosophy "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission" (not to mention "It's easier to do it with open-source tools than to get an IT budget").

That's no longer the case, according to a survey of IT and business executives and managers, conducted in late April 2008 by CIO.com. The survey, collecting data from 328 respondents, showed that more than half the respondents (53 per cent) are using open-source applications in their organization today, and an additional 10 per cent plan to do so in the next year. For nearly half, 44 per cent, open-source applications are considered equally with proprietary solutions during the acquisition process.

Among those currently employing open-source solutions, the primary uses are operating systems such as Linux (78 per cent), infrastructure applications, such as back-end databases and Web servers (74 per cent), and software development tools like Eclipse (61 per cent).

Those may sound fairly geeky, but business application use isn't far behind. Nearly half of the survey respondents, 45 per cent, are using desktop applications such as OpenOffice.org, and 29 per cent use open-source enterprise applications. The most popular of those enterprise applications are collaboration tools, customer relationship management (CRM) tools and ERP applications.

For specific discussion about open-source enterprise applications, see Is Open Source The Answer to ERP?.

Moreover, open-source solutions are generating confidence. Close to three in five respondents, 58 per cent, strongly agree or agree with the statement that Linux is reliable enough to depend upon for mission-critical applications. Remarkably, that confidence is highest among IT executives and managers: 62 per cent say Linux is ready for prime time.

Respondents to the survey ranged from IT executive or manager (59 per cent) and business executive or manager (13 per cent) to IT professionals (20 per cent) and business professionals (8 per cent).

For contrast: Three-quarters (77 per cent) of software developers responding to the last Evans Data Open Source Software/Linux Development Survey absolutely or probably have enough confidence in Linux to use it for mission-critical applications. Take that with a grain of salt: By their qualifications for participation in that market research study, those developers are tipped in favor of using or writing open source (if not Linux), so a higher ranking is not surprising.

What Makes Open Source Appealing-and Not

The primary reasons enterprise IT departments adopt open source are financial. Lower total cost of ownership (59 per cent) and acquisition costs (56 per cent) lead the pack. But money isn't everything. Greater flexibility was cited as a primary reason by 32 per cent of respondents, and access to source code is a motivation for one in three (30 per cent). Attributes of the source code itself aren't key drivers; better-quality code is a primary reason for adoption by just 12 per cent, and product functionality by 22 per cent.

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