O'Reilly study uncovers multiple reasons for open source's impressive rise

O'Reilly Research has uncovered a list of reasons for open source's steady rise. But one area in particular - reduced lock-in - may explain much of its benefits.

O'Reilly Media, Bernard Golden, and Sourceforge.net

According to new research released today by Bernard Golden (Navica) and O'Reilly Research, there are at least six reasons compelling the rapid rise of open source. Agility and scale, reduced vendor lock-in, quality and security, cost, sovereignty (i.e., Local, not necessarily US-based development), and innovation. No wonder Sourceforge downloads continue to rise.

In one particular area, however, open source shines, in my opinion: The ability to reduce lock-in to a particular vendor. The report suggests:

There is little potential price competition for incumbent vendors: Because locked-in vendors have little fear of being replaced, they are in a position to extract expensive maintenance and upgrade fees, bleeding ever-shrinking IT budgets of precious dollars. For example, Oracle just announced price increases of 20% for its database software (accompanied by increases in ongoing maintenance fees as well), secure in the knowledge that very few enterprises are in a position to resist the increase due to the difficulty of replacing the products.

Whatever the price associated with getting into a relationship with Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, IBM, HP, etc., few enterprise buyers seem to reflect on just how expensive it will be to disengage from that relationship due to lock-in to proprietary technology. Things that may be good for buyers (like SaaS) can be safely avoided by the vendor that owns its customers.

This is why I've found industry consolidation so troubling: It essentially forces buyers into long-term, dependent relationships with their vendors. Witness SAP's recent price hike. When the vendor owns the buyer's data by owning the software in which it's housed, the vendor wins every time.

This situation begs for Sun, Red Hat, and other open-source vendors to provide compelling open alternatives. Customers shouldn't have to choose between the lesser of two lock-ins. They should gain choice when they buy software, not lose it. This is the freedom open source affords.

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