Gartner underhypes open source

Open source is much bigger and much further advanced than Gartner believes. Just ask customers.

I'm not sure who Gartner talks to when it puts together its famous "Hype Cycle" reports, but I'm finding it hard to believe that it talks with enterprises. I was recently reading through its "Hype Cycle for Open-Source Software, 2007" report, and was astounded to find out that I've been tricked by paying customers into believing that they were, well, paying.

This chart comes from Gartner's 'Hype Cycle for Open-Source Software, 2007.' Gartner

To wit, Gartner suggests that we're years away from enterprise adoption of the following open-source software categories:

  • Content management (5-10 years);
  • Enterprise Service Bus (5-10 years);
  • J2EE Application Servers (2-5 years); and
  • IP Telephony (2-5 years).

Does "mainstream" mean that everyone has already bought it? Or does it mean that a wide cross-section of the market is adopting it, and not merely the proverbial "early adopters"?

If the latter, I heartily disagree with Gartner.

I work for Alfresco, an enterprise content management company. I advise 10 other open-source companies and keep in close contact with others, including Red Hat and MySQL. For the record, it's hard to find an enterprise these days that isn't actively evaluating and/or adopting open source.

I spent the day with two members of the "late adopter" class. One is a large manufacturer within the automotive industry. The other is a large retailer. Both seem to have forgotten that they should be waiting five or more years before buying open-source content management.

JBoss sells its open-source middleware solutions into the mainstream. It clearly didn't get Gartner's memo. MuleSource can't seem to stop selling beyond its solid core in the financial services market--apparently it missed the memo, too. (Disclosure: I'm an adviser to MuleSource.)

Yes, there are plenty of early adopter types buying into open source. But in many open-source software markets, we're deep into this crowd and well into the "early majority" phase of growth.

Gartner understands this, but seems to leave it out of its Hype Cycle calculation. Gartner writes:

Today, it has become impractical for mainstream IT organizations to avoid or ignore the influence of open source across a wide variety of industry market segments. Doing so will put organizations at a serious disadvantage against competitors who are leveraging mature, stable and well-supported open-source technologies for significant return on investment and total cost of ownership (TCO) opportunities. Moreover, open source is entering IT organizations embedded within market-leading products (themselves not open source) from a wide range of vendors, including IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems, SAP and many others.

Amen. Now we just need to see that reality reflected in the Hype Cycle schematic.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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