Time to upgrade open source perceptions of Gartner

Gartner has been changing its views on open source, which suggests it's time for the open-source community to change its views on Gartner.

Gartner has had a rocky relationship with open source in the past, but recent research suggests that its views on open source have evolved. It's therefore time for the open-source world's views on Gartner to evolve, too.

Gartner hasn't historically been much of a friend to open source. While Forrester, Redmonk, the 451 Group, IDC, and other analyst firms long ago began recording the rise of open source within enterprise computing, Gartner seemed to side with the proprietary vendors in steadfastly arguing that open source's impact was negligible .

This resulted in some suggesting that Gartner's research was simply a reflection of which companies paid it the most money (and recently netted the analyst firm a lawsuit).

I made similar accusations myself.

Gartner responded to such attacks, defending the integrity of its research. Yet its blind spot to open source seemed to persist.

Not anymore. Whatever the reason for the erstwhile overlooking of open source, Gartner analysts' current views on open source have changed, in some cases dramatically.

It used to be that open-source companies and projects never made it into Gartner's Magic Quadrant (MQ), which have tremendous power for, if somewhat limited utility to, enterprise buyers.

Now, you'll find that Gartner lists Drupal ("Drupal is in the Visionaries quadrant because of its use of the open source model to drive adoption and popularity, while providing enterprise services via organizations such as Acquia"), Liferay, and MindTouch in its newest "Social Software in the Workplace" MQ, while Alfresco, MySQL, JasperSoft, Pentaho, and others are listed in a variety of other MQs. (Disclosure: I work for Alfresco and am an adviser to MindTouch and JasperSoft.)

Gartner also recognizes the broad adoption of open source in the enterprise and how open source is affecting even proprietary software vendors .

This isn't to suggest that Gartner finally "gets it" because it's writing favorably about open source. In fact, some of Gartner's best, most interesting analysis is available for free on the blogs section of its Web site, not all of which is positive about open source.

It is, however, balanced and often quite insightful, particularly the work of Gartner analyst Brian Prentice.

Given all this, it's time for open sorcerers to stop using Gartner as a straw man for poor analysis on open source. This isn't helpful and, increasingly, it's not remotely accurate.

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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