A blog for the enterprise open source community
OSBC 2010 – Age of open source enablementJay Lyman, March 18, 2010 @ 11:20 am ET
As I attend OSBC 2010 and search for a common theme among the sessions, business executives, developers and discussions on enterprise open source software, it becomes apparent that we are entering an age of open source enablement.
I first heard the theme in a morning conversation with an individual in a mid-size organization that uses open source. While we’ve covered the drivers and efficiencies coming from the devops trend, whereby enterprise development of applications and deployment of applications is coming together, this individual reported being at an organization that still had largely separate development and operations camps. However, he did hit on a common theme among open source users of all kinds: his hands are often tied with proprietary software, for which there is limited access to the code, less accountability from its supplier and generally less control of what can be done. Contrast this to open source, where the same individual reports an ability to take the code and tweak it as needed and to move ahead on required features and functionality regardless of the supplier’s plans. That was leading to new levels of efficiency and effectiveness based on what was possible with open source, he reported.
It wasn’t just talk in the halls, though. The same theme of open source enablement came up in the opening keynote from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst. Hitting on a common challenge for commercial open source software — differentiating from free and cheap — Whitehurst told the audience that the most compelling reason for using open source software is innovation. He recalled the story of his experience prior to Red Hat at Delta Airlines, where there was a need for drastic improvements in efficiency and Whitehurst turned to open source as the way to get there. I did not have the chance to ask him, but I suspect a very important part of this transition at Delta was an individual or group that was serving as a champion for open source software.
The theme continued with a keynote panel that included Whitehurst, SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin, Drupal creator and Acquia co-founder and CTO Dries Buytaert, Black Duck President and CEO Tim Yeaton and moderator Michal Skok, general partner with North Bridge Venture Partners.
I believe Augustin hit the nail on head when he told the audience that lower cost and open source’s association with lower cost tends to be the way open source software gets in the door, but once organizations have adopted and used open source, they become ‘enamored.’ This is consistent with our recent report on customer attitudes on open source, whereby cost was cited as the top reason for adoption of open source, but flexibility was then cited as the top benefit after adoption. Furthermore, we saw significant gains for open source benefits such as reliability and performance.
This all supports a largely anecdotal finding about open source that I’ve been following — that it enables efficiency and cost savings and flexibility and in the end, contributes to a greater ability for an individual or organization to support and sustain itself and its own technology deployment. Similar to how a desktop Linux user is forced to improve his or her own computing and problem-solving skills, enterprise organizations tha use open source can, after getting over the hurdles of new and different interfaces and procedures, become more intelligent, confident and skilled in supporting themselves.
My talk at OSBC centers on the cost savings benefits of open source software and how this drove adoption amid difficult economic conditions. There was also discussion at the conference of the impact of an improving economy. While I don’t believe IT budgets will get fattened up with improving economic conditions, I do believe that this could put more emphasis on some of the other benefits of open source software. Again, we found cost savings was the main driver for customers considering open source. However, after adoption, the top benefit changes to flexibility. In addition, while factors such as vendor lock-in appear to subside after adoption, open source benefits such as reliability and performance grow in significance. I believe this is indicative of where the market, customers and vendors are headed as they contemplate the benefits and rewards of open source. I also believe these ‘other’ non-cost factors all contribute to enabling IT individuals and teams based on open source.
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