Forrester survey discovers that virtually no one uses open source (?!?)

Forrester has new research suggesting that absolutely no one is using open source. The problem with this conclusion is that it contradicts all other available evidence.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
4 min read

Forrester just released a new survey, one that begs the question: Who paid for this rubbish?

I generally like Forrester's work, but this survey flies in the face of every piece of research on open source that I've seen in the last five years...including research from Forrester. Also, as the research itself finds, often its survey respondents are using open source even when they don't know it: Nearly half of those surveyed by Forrester who are using open-source frameworks (e.g., Spring) still claim they are not using open source.

Forrester's newest research finds:

  • Seventy percent of decision-makers responded that they don't have interest or have no plans to adopt open-source software;
  • Only 23 percent of respondents said expanding their use of open-source software was a priority;
  • Security is the main concern around adopting open-source software. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said it was an important or very important concern.

Amazing how open source's greatest strengths are now being used against it. Security? I'm not suggesting that open source is perfect here, but it's one of the primary reasons that people are dumping proprietary software for open source. This is a classic Microsoft spin, and directly contradicts Forrester's own, earlier research that open source offers security advantages, not disadvantages.

Fortunately, if CIOs care to spend even a nanosecond checking Forrester's claims about tepid adoption of open source, there is a wide array of contradictory evidence, including from Forrester:

And so on. I have other research from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, IDC, and others that tells much the same story: Open-source adoption is growing at a frenetic pace at every level of the software stack. Security is often cited as one of its chief benefits. It's not that open-source software is by nature secure, but rather that for credible vendors of open source the software's transparency makes it easier to spot and fix vulnerabilities.

Having said this, even in negative, perhaps wholly inaccurate findings, there is still room for open source to improve. If, in fact, enterprises are holding back on open-source adoption due to the reasons below, then this is a revenue opportunity for commercial open-source vendors:

Forrester Research

There is more adoption than Forrester notes. Much more. But perhaps we'd see even more if we did a better job of marketing the security benefits around open source, the cost benefits around open source, the support and TCO benefits around open source, etc.

Back in 2005, Microsoft was paying Forrester for anti-Linux research. I assume that this report, referenced at the top of this post, is more of the same. But even in the midst of FUD there is real data that can make open-source vendors better.

Correction: Forrester got in touch to share the following:

One thing I wanted to clarify because you make a couple references in the post to the study being "paid for" or sponsored by a vendor. The survey was not sponsored - the data came from our Enterprise and SMB Software Survey, North America and Europe, Q3 2007, which was a completely independent Forrester study and one of the largest enterprise/SMB surveys we conduct on an annual basis.

All of which makes the data even more confusing, since it doesn't jibe with any other surveys/research I've seen in the past few years...including from Forrester.