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Forrester: Lots of room for open-source growth

Open-source software has clearly penetrated the enterprise, but still has lots of room to grow, according to recent Forrester Consulting data.

Recent survey data compiled by Forrester Consulting on behalf of information systems specialist Bull suggests that we're at the front end of a long cycle of open-source infrastructure and application adoption.

That's right. Despite Gartner finding that 85 percent of enterprises have already adopted open source and Forrester Research's consulting arm finding that 45 percent of all companies that are using open-source software use it for mission-critical applications, the adoption appears to be somewhat thin, leaving a great deal of room for even more adoption, especially in open-source applications:

Huge swaths of the market have apparently adopted open-source infrastructure like the Linux operating system, JBoss application server, MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, and other open-source systems:

Open-source Infrastructure Adoption, 2008 Forrester Research

But the bigger and longer-term opportunity appears to be in open-source applications, which have only lightly been adopted, according to the survey:

Open-source Application Adoption, 2008 Forrester Research

Red Hat has built a $650 million business by selling support for Linux and JBoss, a business that continues to grow and thrive. This, however, is a tiny tip of an enormous $222 billion enterprise software iceberg, with enterprise applications making up a huge chunk of that iceberg.

In other words, Red Hat demonstrates that open source can compete effectively in the enterprise, and the enterprise clearly has a lot more room in which open-source vendors, and perhaps particularly open-source application vendors, can grow.

Even better, the recession is forcing many IT buyers to re-evaluate purchasing strategies in order to save costs, with open source increasingly getting the nod. IDC found that the recession is driving even more adoption of Linux, and new Forrester data suggests that cost savings will help open source well beyond Linux:

Motivations Driving Open-Source Adoption, 2009 Forrester Research

Whatever your corner of the open-source market, it's a fantastic time to be in open source. If you're a customer, you get the benefit of reduced cost with minimal lock-in. If you're a vendor, you get to sell a superior value proposition in a tough market. And if you're a proprietary vendor, you get to watch. Everyone wins. :-)

Disclosure: I am an employee of Alfresco, an open-source enterprise collaboration and content management vendor.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.