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A perceived lack of long-term support continues to hold back open source, survey finds

Open source is knocking the cover off the ball when it comes to adoption. But what is holding it back? A new survey points to some reasons.

Who influences adoption of open source?

Actuate's 2007 survey of enterprise adoption of open source is out, and the results point to a massive groundswell of open-source adoption. Actuate surveyed 602 senior IT executives and discovered a widespread interest in and use of open-source software.

This survey is particularly useful because it tracks attitudes and adoption patterns of open source across three different vertical markets: financial services, public sector, and telco. It's particularly focused on the United States, but also reveals data for the United Kingdom and Germany. (As with other surveys on the U.K., the Actuate survey shows the U.K. trailing other mature markets in open-source adoption.)

Here are some of the most interesting data from the research:

  • Only one-fifth of respondents (20.9 percent) describe their organization's level of familiarity with open-source software as 'high,' with a further 43.8 percent rating it as 'moderate.' More than a quarter of respondents (29.1 percent) think their organization's level of familiarity with open source software is 'low.' To me, this says that the market for open source is wide open and can only grow as understanding of open source grows. (Interestingly, this level of familiarity is roughly the same across financial services, the public sector, and telco respondents.) (6)

  • More than one third of companies (37.7 percent) are already using open-source software (with another 63 percent using it but the person surveyed doesn't know it, I'd warrant). A further 6.2 percent are currently in the process of adopting it, with another 4.8 percent having plans to adopt. In addition, 10.5 percent are currently evaluating it, but have not yet decided whether to adopt. Around one in eight (13.3 percent) are monitoring developments, but are not yet evaluating, while an identical proportion (13.3 percent) are not monitoring developments and have no plans to adopt. (7)

  • Is there a preference for open source? Actuate
  • Note, however, that it is the U.S. public sector respondents who bring the number down. And 47.6 percent of financial services respondents report "already using" open source, whereas only 32.8 percent of U.S. public sector respondents are. (7)

  • Among respondents not having any plans to adopt open-source software, the main reasons given are that they have not really considered it (34.6 percent) or consider it high risk (32.7 percent). (8)

  • Cost is a primary driver of open-source adoption. The main perceived benefit of open-source software is that there are no license costs (56 percent). The second tier of main perceived benefits are flexibility (48.4 percent) and access to source code (47.1 percent). These are followed by vendor independence (38.7 percent), not being locked into Microsoft (38.7 percent), being built on open platforms (35.3 percent), standards-based technology (32.5 percent), and scalability (30.5 percent). Public sector respondents were much more likely to mention the Microsoft angle than other industries....(9)

  • Among organizations considering open source, 42.4 percent employ it about equally for new applications and to replace existing systems/infrastructure. A further 15.8 percent utilize it primarily for new applications, while 7.9 percent use it primarily to replace existing systems/infrastructure. (14)

  • What open source is being used? Actuate
  • What's holding open source back? The three main barriers to adopting open-source technologies are the availability of long-term support (46.3 percent), long-term maintenance (45.3 percent), and lack of in-house skills to implement (44.8 percent). These are followed by incompatibility with existing applications/data (33.5 percent) and proven track record in real world applications (30.9 percent). (11)

You should download the full report to get more. The research is very thorough--I've only been able to include a few highlights here.

Reading through data like this, you've just got to be concerned for the proprietary world. Open source is clearly mounting an effective, long-term challenge to the 20th century's manner of software development and distribution.