A blog for the enterprise open source community
Small business opportunity for open source gets biggerJay Lyman, April 28, 2010 @ 1:41 pm ET
There have been some interesting reports and findings recently regarding the opportunity and demand for open source software and its vendors among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). First, a study from CompTIA indicates that SMBs are becoming more aggressive and willing to spend on IT provided it delivers cost savings and other efficiencies. In terms of open source, the study indicates nearly 20% of SMBs polled plan to begin using open source software in the next year. We believe that is a significant figure, particularly when we consider all of the open source software – from OS to middleware to applications — that SMBs may already be using, but just are not necessarily aware it is open source (via SIs, resellers, service providers and others that are increasingly using and incorporating open source).
The CompTIA study also indicates a trend for open source among SMBs that we have been watching over the last year and a half. When we delved into the subject of SMB use of open source software in our report, The SMB Market Opportunity in November 2007, we found that there was still generally far greater opportunity for open source software and its vendors in the enterprise market. Reasons centered on the limited resources and tactical, rather than strategic IT operations of a typical SMB, the dominance of established players such as Microsoft and their partners and a general skepticism about open source among SMBs, compared to a growing credibility and acceptance among larger enterprises.
However, things have changed since then, and we continue to see signs that SMBs, like enterprises, are increasingly willing and able to adopt and pay for open source software and related support and services. A major part of this, as we see it, are the all-imporant sales channels for SMBs opening up to open source. Why? Similar to the way difficult economic conditions have driven users and customers to open source, as we found in our more recent report Climate Change: User Perspectives on the Impact of Economic Conditions on Open Source Adoption, system integrators, VARs, managed service providers and others are moving to include open source, and its reputation for cost savings, among their offerings.
Further reinforcement of the changes to the SMB market opportunity for open source: a separate report from Springboard Research and systems and network management vendor Spiceworks that indicates adoption and use of Linux servers among SMBs is growing, particularly in emerging and non-U.S. geographies. This is also consistent with our findings from a few years ago that indicated North American SMBs were most tied to traditional OS deployments using Windows for both desktop and server, but that other geographies, particularly emerging markets, were more likely to adopt Linux.
This all reinforces the idea that the SMB market opportunity for open source software is growing and while we still believe there remains greater opportunity in the enterprise, where open source has had more time to evolve and gain acceptance, we are already seeing a broader embrace of open source, including smaller organizations. Given its accessibility, flexibility and other benefits, it would seem open source is the perfect match for SMBs. After a few years of hype about this market and opportunity for open source, it seems reality is finally beginning to catch up.
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