Enterprise Open Source Adoption Underway But Needs Company Policies

As the number of companies adopting open source increases -- and the number of business processes depending on them does, too -- research firm Gartner is urging companies to adopt and enforce open source (OSS) policies.

A survey by research and analysis company Gartner has shown the pervasiveness of open-source software (OSS) adoption across firms.

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According to the study, 85 per cent of companies surveyed are currently using OSS in their enterprises and the remaining 15 per cent are expecting to in the next 12 months.

The survey was conducted in May and June 2008 and included 274 end-user organisations across various countries and markets in Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.

No formal OSS policy

According to survey findings, 69 per cent of companies surveyed still have no formal policy for evaluating and cataloguing OSS usage in their enterprise. This opens up major potential liabilities for intellectual-property violations, said the analyst firm.

"Just because something is free doesn't mean that it has no cost," said Laurie Wurster, research director at 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. Once a policy is in place, then there must be a governance process to enforce it."

Interestingly, the survey results indicate that OSS in new projects is being deployed nearly equally in mission-critical and non-mission-critical situations.

OSS as a replacement for commercially available products

Of the large number of application software projects, respondents indicated a higher rate of using OSS as a replacement for commercially available products while using mostly OSS components for their infrastructure development, said the research company.

In areas where OSS projects are most mature, IT departments appear comfortable with using OSS components to enhance existing infrastructure environments, the Gartner survey indicated. However, in the less mature areas of application software, OSS is more readily used as a replacement for commercially available software, probably because of the cost and sophistication level required to customise many application products.

Top three reasons for using OSS

According to the survey findings, respondents cited the following as the top three most important reasons for using OSS: lower total cost of ownership (TCO), reduction in development of cost-prohibitive factors, and the ease to embark on new IT projects or software initiatives.

Some respondents indicated that they also use OSS as investment protection against a single vendor 'owning' the entire IT department, said Gartner.

Governance the number one challenge

Governance, or the lack of it, was the No 1 challenge for OSS users in the survey, followed by conflicting terms and conditions and the availability of too many license types and forms.

"Understanding when and how an OSS alternative may be used is a frustrating process, especially when there are so many license types and forms from which to choose," said Wurster.

The Gartner survey also revealed that customer service continues to be the leading business process for which OSS projects are used, followed closely by enterprise integration, finance and administration, and business analytics. Sales and marketing, customer analytics, field service, ERP and CRM solutions are also moving up the adoption ramp, further increasing the influence of OSS in many enterprises, said the research firm.

This story, "Enterprise Open Source Adoption Underway But Needs Company Policies " was originally published by MIS Asia.

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