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Analysts wake up to open source

Open source has long been ignored by the leading analysts like Gartner and IDC, but its momentum can no longer be ignored, as new studies suggest.

For years, the analyst community has largely ignored open source or, worse, has actively advised against it. While there are exceptions--Forrester, The 451 Group, Redmonk--the general mood in the analyst community seems to be one of steadfast denial of open-source's impact on computing.

Ignoring open source is a bit like denying gravity, however, and even open-source agnostics like IDC and Gartner are now stating the obvious:

Open source is having a massive impact on enterprise computing, and it's becoming big business.

IDC, for example, significantly revised upward its estimate of the market size for open-source solutions, now projecting a 22.4 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to hit $8.1 billion by 2013. The firm suggests that the revision is due to the surprising growth of open source through the economic downturn. It's unclear why this should have been a surprise, especially given that it was already calling out Linux as a big winner in the recession but...we'll take it.

Gartner, for its part, started warming up to open source in 2008 when its conversations with chief information officers revealed 85 percent enterprise penetration. In 2007 the closest it came to recognizing open source's impact was to suggest that open-source solutions would cannibalize proprietary software products.

But now it has done the unthinkable: it has actually included an open-source vendor (GroundWork) in its Magic Quadrant, and in a positive way.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Event Correlation and Analysis Gartner

Granted, Gartner has included open source before (e.g., Liferay has featured in two Magic Quadrants), but it has also ignored obvious candidates, as it did in the business intelligence market.

This is positive movement from Gartner and reflects a new pragmatism. I consider Forrester a leading indicator--at least, among the big analyst firms--of where technology is going, and its open-source predictions bear this out. Gartner and IDC tend to be lagging indicators of technology adoption.

The good news? For open source, leading and lagging indicators now say the same thing: "Open source is having a major impact on computing and will continue to shake up the industry."

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.