Automation, devops drive open source deeper in the enterprise

Server provisioning and configuration management and automation are the latest examples of where the tech industry is being driven, largely by open source software. The leading open source server and IT infrastructure automation frameworks, Opscode Chef and Puppet Labs’ Puppet, sit on the leading edge of significant trends under way in enterprise IT — particularly disruption from cloud computing and devops, where application development and IT operations come together for faster, smoother delivery of software and services.

I’ve discussed the importance of open source software in cloud computing and in trends such as devops and polyglot programming. Consistently across all of these trends and the technologies that go with them, there are prominent roles for Chef and Puppet.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Like FOSS fog, cloud confusion may not matter

The general public knows little about the true technology fundamentals of cloud computing, suggests a recent survey commissioned by IT vendor Citrix. Almost a third of the roughly 1,000 U.S. adults polled thought cloud computing was related to weather.

However, the ascendance of Linux and open source software 10 years ago demonstrated that everyday people do not have to understand, appreciate or knowingly participate in a technology in order to leverage it in their lives.

Read the full article at LinuxInsider.

Future of open source survey highlights progress, changes, challenges

451 Research was pleased to collaborate on the Future of Open Source Survey 2012 with North Bridge Venture Partners and Black Duck Software. This year’s survey garnered 740 responses from a variety of vendors and non-vendors in the industry. Overall, the survey highlighted some subtle and sometimes dramatic changes in what is driving open source software. It also made clear that while there is still a good degree of education and awareness yet to occur around open source software, there is a large amount of open source code making its way into today’s enterprise, webscale, consumer and other computing environments.

Some of the key findings:

*The survey reinforced the prominence and influence of open source software in the enterprise and in key trends driving it, as we and others have highlighted for some time with reports such as Seeding the Clouds and Mobility Matters. When asked which technology areas would see the most significant open source software community innovation from, respondents ranked ‘cloud’ highest at 40%, then ‘mobile apps’ (19%) and ‘mobile enterprise’ (15%) for a combined 34%, then ‘analytics’ with 10%. These areas are indicative of where we see open source software projects, communities, vendors and consortia continuing to broaden use of open source software.

*The survey asked what are the top barriers to selecting open source software when compared with proprietary alternatives, resulting in unfamiliarity (48%), lack of internal technical skills (47%), lack of vendor support (35%) and legal concerns about licensing (33%) as the top answers. Although this indicates there is still some trepidation and lack of awareness around open source and commercial options for support, other survey responses indicate open source software is still spreading to new industries and customer categories. When asked about the most important trend for open source software over the next two to three years, respondents identified the top choices as: adoption in non-technical segments such as government or healthcare (42%); enterprise adoption (40%) and growth in industry-specific communities (10%).

*The survey also showed there is a heavy volume of new, meaningful code coming out of open source software’s many communities. When asked what share of their deployed code they anticipate will be open source software over the next five years, about one third of survey respondents (32%) reported open source had already reached major deployment at 75% or more of their code. Another one third of respondents (30%) said open source will make up half to 75% or more of its deployed code. About a quarter of respondents (23%) indicated open source would make up 25-50% of their deployed code over the next five years, while 15% of respondents said the open source share of deployed code would be a quarter or less.

*We also saw a high rate of open source participation from the survey. When asked about community engagement with open source and their preferred method, 49% of respondents said consuming code, 36% said reporting patches or fixes, 31% said contributing new features, 28% said initiating new projects, 25% said contributing through partners or industry alliances. We believe this shows a high rate of open source participation beyond using code, which is also a meaningful contribution. This also indicates a greater willingness to get involved with open source projects and to start new projects.

*The survey also highlighted the changing drivers of open source software in the enterprise. When asked what are the top factors that make open source software attractive, respondents identified freedom from vendor lock-in (60%), lower acquisition and maintenance cost (51%), better quality (43%) and access to source code (42%) as the top answers. While we had seen vendor lock-in fade as a factor and cost as paramount two or three years ago, today vendor lock-in has become much more of a factor for customers. We believe this has to do wtih cloud computing and customers’ desire to maintain flexibility as they figure out how to best leverage cloud resources. The survey also showed that cost, which we also equate to time and efficiency, is always a strong factor, with 62% of respondents identifying reduced cost of development and maintenance as the main reason they use open source or initiate projects.

*The survey also reinforced our belief that while open source software lays the groundwork and underlies much of cloud computing, the cloud is also giving back to open source by providing vendors a way to differentiate free downloads from paid, cloud-based services. In fact, it seems support and services subscriptions are a much higher priority for open source software vendors than so-called ‘open core’ models that provide software for free and certain extensions, features or support as paid. When asked which revenue generation strategies are likely to create the most value for open source vendors over the next two years, respondents ranked an annual, repeatable support and service agreement as the top answer (52%). Other open source revenue models, such as ad-hoc services and support (41%), value-add subscription (40%), hosted or cloud software services (38%) all ranked higher than a closed-source license or open core model (12%).

For our full analysis on the results of the 2012 Future of Open Source Survey, see our Spotlight report. The results were also presented this week on a panel at the Open Source Business Conference and that presentation is available at the Open Source Delivers blog.

Open source moving in mobile

We got another reminder of how disruptive open source software is to mobile computing this week, when Linux and Android merged back together. This appears to be good news for a number of parties, but Android and Linux developers and users seem particularly likely to benefit. The inclusion of Android code in the Linux kernel and the ability for Linux developers to more easily work on the Android environment and applications also ties into some of the key topics we’ll be covering in a Webcast March 21 titled ‘Open Source, A Tale of Two Cities in the Mobile Enterprise,’ presented by 451 Research and Black Duck Software.

This webcast, as the title implies, will focus on how open source can present both challenges and opportunities as enterprises adapt to market changes and mobile devices. This includes the fact that open source software frameworks, pieces and development are all enabling new applications to be quickly developed and deployed. However, this presents tremendous pressure on enterprise IT teams already dealing with disruption and change from cloud computing and the trend of ‘devops,’ which blends application development with IT operations and application deployment. The Webcast will cover how open source software is mixing with devops and other trends, such as the consumerization of IT and BYOD, to both disrupt and develop the mobile enterprise. We will also highlight some key open source software technologies in the mobile space and highlight some observed best practices for both vendors and customers.

Contemplating innovation, openness, clouds at OSCON

The annual OSCON conference is and should be about open source, but some different conversations, companies and of course new code all make the show a good milepost to check what is driving open source, what the current debates are, who is winning criticism and praise and what is making open source matter most in enterprise IT.

This year’s OSCON was marked by some new ventures, companies and faces in and around open source. It also became clear after several conversations with vendors, developers and users that the biggest driver of open source software in the enterprise today seems to be innovation. What else would be driving open source? Well, when we asked customers nearly two years ago, the clear, primary driver was cost. Customers and users also rated flexibility as both a top driver of open source adoption and a benefit of open source after adoption. However, even then we saw a significant jump for factors such as performance and reliability when comparing driver of adoption and benefit from adoption. This indicated to us that the reasons for and advantages from open source software were shifting from simply cost-effectiveness and less expensive alternatives to innovative reasons that dealt more with capabilities, functionality. Time and cost will always be big factors, but it has been interesting to watch this transition, and OSCON appears to be a milepost that we’ve reached a point where innovation trumps other factors most of the time. We will be doing more research into open source software and what’s driving it, particularly in cloud computing, later this year.

Another major part of OSCON this year was the discussion and debate about openness in cloud computing. Microsoft introduced the idea of ‘open surface,’ indicating that openness in today’s cloud computing environment is less about source code and open source and more about SLAs, terms of use and contracts. This is an important and valid point and illustrates a question I’ve posed before regarding what is open enough? Still, we see the cloud building and stack components, which are almost completely open source, and it becomes clear that open source is a fundamental part of openness in today’s IT environments.

This is the role of open source software that I discussed when considering it along with open standards, open clouds and open data as the keys to openness in today’s enterprise IT.

We also saw another perspective on open clouds emerge at OSCON, and this time from a more organic source than the Open Cloud Manifesto that emerged from IBM and was received with some skepticism given it was a vendor effort. Instead the Open Cloud Initiative has been formed to lay out not technologies, not standards, but principles intended to keep customers, their software and their data open and free of lock-in, which has crept back up to the top of customers minds, particularly in cloud computing. While it benefits from having some true thought leaders in open source and cloud computing who work for powerful vendors, the OCI is focused on being a non-vendor organization. This is partly why it was set up as a non-profit, according to OCI board director John Mark Walker, who is joined by OCI President and Founder Sam Johnston and fellow directors Rick Clark, Marc Fleischmann, Shanley Kane, Sam Ramji and Simon Wardley, among others.

The OCI intends, with community input, to provide a legal framework for cloud computing vendors and users to come together on requirements that can be applied to products and services in the market. The organization has formed key principles around interoperability, user portability and standards that include copyrights, patents, trademarks and implementations. The idea is to ensure that cloud computing services are open enough for users to move among them without having certain parts of their infrastructure, applications or data locked or silod with a single provider or consortium. It’s an admirable effort and will hopefully add to the pressure to keep cloud computing open.

Future of cloud survey shows significance of open source

The 451 Group was pleased to work with North Bridge Venture Partners, GigaOM and additional companies and players in the industry for the Future of Cloud Computing Survey 2011, which confirmed the early nature of the market, but also indicated customers and users have learned from previous trends, particularly open source software and virtualization. The Future of Cloud Computing Survey 2011 garnered 417 responses from both vendors and end users, focusing on current use, drivers, barriers and future plans regard‪ing cloud computing.

One of the clearest points of the survey was the early stage of cloud computing. We found 40% of respondents are only experimenting with cloud computing at this point. Another 26% of survey respondents reported they are waiting for more maturity in the market before adopting a cloud strategy. In terms of current cloud use, 13% indicated complete confidence for mission critical applications, while 11 percent of respondents cited usage spikes. This shows that while cloud computing is indeed just getting started for a majority of the market, there is current production use of cloud computing that is significant.

Respondents identified agility, scalability and cost savings as the biggest drivers of cloud computing. The significance of saving money with cloud computing was reinforced by the fact that 55% of respondents believe the cloud has a lower total cost ownership (TCO) and only 13% indicating a higher TCO in the cloud. Similar to what we have seen with the drivers of open source software, there was also an indication in the Future of Cloud Survey that other factors are emerging as more significant, particularly performance, reliability and innovation. In the longer term over the next five years, cloud survey respondents identified competitive differentiation, mobility and open cloud APIs for interoperability were most important.

Security and compliance were ranked as top inhibitors to cloud computing with both garnering 31% of survey responses. These are consistent with our ongoing conversations with cloud computing users and providers. Although compliance can sometimes be viewed as an excuse for organizations to delay implementation cloud computing, we believe the survey also validates compliance as a real challenge for customers wary of expanding compliance or regulatory requirements by adopting the cloud. Interoperability and vendor lock-in were ranked the next most significant challenges, both with 25% of response. Though we saw vendor lock-in fade a bit as a concern for customers two to three years ago, it has risen again as a major issue in cloud computing. We believe this is in part because of the early nature of cloud computing and a desire from users to avoid getting stuck with a cloud vendor, framework or technology. The preponderence of open source software pieces and vendors in cloud computing also reinforces the significance of avoiding vendor lock-in, with users now demanding and vendors delivering more open, multi-supplier, multi-technology cloud offerings.

The survey also indicated a realization among users that the cloud is no silver bullet and will not necessarily reduce IT staff or complexity, for the most part. Nearly 75% of respondents indicated the cloud would mean supporting the same staff or require more hiring, while only 26% expected a decrease in staff with the cloud. Perhaps a case of education from previous deployment of open source software, virtualization and other trends before the cloud, we believe this shows an intelligence in the market that should equate to effective and rapid uptake of cloud computing resources and offerings. We will of course continue to track these aspects of cloud computing, but we have no doubt that open source software will continue to play a key role.

Further details about The Future of Cloud Computing survey and results are available here.

Time for your cloud gut check

It may be hard for Amazon, any of its users, critics or competitors to find a silver-lining in the recent cloud outage that took major sites offline for significant periods over the last week (ok, the critics and competitors are getting plenty), but I see a real upside for all: this has been our latest cloud computing gut check.

Just as we have seen in the case of open source software forks, dissents and competition, these challenges all represent a form of open source discipline that keeps code, communities and vendors ‘honest’ in the sense they must respond to developer and user demands and must also steer a successful path both organizationally and commercially. So while there is no doubt pain and loss from the Amazon outage, it is also a reminder that what does not kill your cloud computing deployment will only make it stronger.

It’s true, the outage illustrates that users and providers are still figuring out cloud computing, and that there is still much learning to be done. It was interesting to see some companies actually sending out press releases regarding how well they and their teams were able to keep their cloud-based environments going through the outage. Indeed, as highlighted recently by our own Tier 1 analysts Jason Verge and Doug Toombs, a number of heavy Amazon cloud users were able to largely sustain the blow of the outage and keep their clouds aloft, including Neftlix and Zynga. We can probably assume this kind of thing could happen with a private cloud, and if we don’t, we should. Still, the point is that the differentiation of technology and the team to effectively leverage it emerged as a critical differentiator during the Amazon cloud outage.

I believe the technology, tasks, procedures and preparedness that are represented in the winners versus the losers in this centers on ‘devops,’ a term we refer to often that involves the crossing of development, operations and other professionals in modern IT environments that both leverage and provide cloud computing services. Discussion of devops often centers on efficient use of cloud computing resources by both providers and users. Even when we consider ‘no-ops’ or more accurately ‘auto-ops,’ — whereby systems and operations are abstracted for developers and users — there is a definite need for knowledge, skill, experience and process when confronting cloud crashes, particularly on the operations side. Devops also represents a more holistic view of software in its environment(s), which is critical to crisis management and recovery for both Amazon and its users. Certainly Amazon and its partners are working hard to restore all of their cloud services to full functionality, but it is very interesting and encouraging to see customers and users adding in their know-how and talent to offset down servers and avoid downtime. It makes it clear why a large organization such as Facebook would benefit from opening its own datacenters and practices.

From Amazon’s and other providers’ perspectives – the cloud stubbed toe of this week also highlights how communication and reaction are perhaps as critical as the technical aspects of addressing what’s wrong and fixing it. Open source software also provides lessons here, indicating vendors and providers are best served by transparency and openness. What the message boards and Twitterverse are telling us now is that users will accept some degree of downtime and difficulty, but they want straight information on how long and how severely they will be down. Just as vendors face a challenge in fairly yet effectively pricing and charging for cloud computing, it may be difficult to provide guidance on recovery from an outage, but the same rules of PR crisis management apply: don’t over-promise and don’t under-deliver.

So just like a fork, leadership crisis or large, proprietary competitor is supposed to wreck an open source project or vendor, the latest cloud crash will finally stifle this cloud hype, bluster and momentum, right? Not quite. I would argue that just like a good fork, feud or megavendor foray into open source software is actually a strengthening, disciplinary measure, the latest cloud coughing will serve as a necessary gut check on cloud computing, thus helping us avoid a cloud bubble.

The future of cloud computing is the future for open source

I recently wrote a column about the lack of a cloud computing bubble, even though the hype and marketing levels around the cloud have risen along with innovative technologies and vendors. As we consider what’s next for cloud computing with a survey presented by 451 Group, North Bridge Venture Partners and GigaOm, we will also be able to get a good sense of what’s next for open source software, given the prominence and significance of open source in the clouds.

Given our most recent efforts to track open source software in the enterprise, it is relevant to note that we see a continued, symbiotic relationship between open source and cloud computing. In fact, in many ways, the future of open source depends on the future of cloud computing and vice-versa. One of the symbiotic relationships between open source software and cloud computing is also one of the main reasons I believe both will continue to be a big part of enterprise IT and a big opportunity for vendors and investors: customer enablement. The lessons, practices and community of today’s enterprise IT that have been ushered in by open source – more transparency on the plans for products and code, more flexibility in working with both legacy products and software as well as newer open components, add-ons and combinations, faster development and fewer dead ends via vendor death, acquisition or strategy shift — are being applied to cloud computing. We also see evidence of this customer enablement in the makeup of today’s communities, both open source and non, which include both developes and users/customers.

I continue to have some concern about how open will be open enough, and whether that will truly be open and collaborative enough for these new, customer-enabled cloud communities.

However, I remain convinced that cloud computing may be opening up and, just like open source, is much more than a catch-phrase or hyped-up marketing term. It is central to the continued success, growth and innovation of vendors and users in the key categories I cover, including open source and devops.

Big business better use open source

There was a recent skirmish about open source software in the enterprise regarding a contention that open source is not really used by big business, which was refuted, naturally, by open source vendors. Nevertheless, my experience among not only vendors, but also investors and particularly large enterprise end users, is that open source is typically atop the list of priorities, strategies and options. Granted, I’m an analyst working primarily covering open source software in the enterprise, but I have many conversations with non-open source companies, and the end users with which I speak are focused on open source among many other things.

I wrote about big companies using open source last year, and today I find that most companies, whatever vertical or industry, are leveraging open source software in one way or another, whether infrastructure software and operating systems such as Linux, middleware where we see Apache Tomcat and Red Hat JBoss going strong or applications, where every category has open source options, and most categories have paid, commercial open source options.

I am currently repeating a theme that I came up with when economic conditions were growing the use of open source, including paid use, mission-critical use, production use and, yes, big business use. The theme is this: a few years ago, enterprise organizations might say they were not using open source or did not want to use open source for this reason or that reason, and it was probably accepted as somewhat reasonable. Flash forward to today, and the commercial support and credibility of open source have evolved amid a drive toward open source alternatives from economic conditions. Thus, to say that an organization avoids or bans open source software today is tantamount to saying that organization does not save money, does not do things efficiently and is not progressive. There may be those who continue to believe that the use of open source is still relegated to geeky development or IT operations teams, or that it is limited to test and dev projects, but it has already made inroads into production. Whether the leadership of big business knows it or not may be another matter.

Devops just keeps coming up

Devops — the pushing together of enterprise application development and the IT operations, mainly by cloud computing, collaboration and automation — continues to come up in conversations with large enterprise IT vendors and customers.

When we began covering devops, we saw it focused mainly on the software developers and IT administrators who were, themselves, devops, that is they worked in software development with previous or current experience in IT administration, or vice-versa, with IT admins that were software developers in previous lives. As our coverage of devops continued, it became clear that these groups were perhaps the main practitioners of devops, but certainly not the only ones that came into play, with business requirements, customer service, security and other stakeholders considered.

With our most recent and extensive research on the topic, our special report ‘Rise of the Devops,’ we considered these many stakeholders, as well as the drivers of devops, which include cloud computing, agile software development, automation and open source software. In addition, through our discussions with several devops end users that served as our case studies in the report, we came to the conclusion that devops was poised to move beyond Web 2.0, media and SaaS companies to more mainstream, enterprise IT, where in many ways, devops embodies effective, efficient use of cloud computing, whether for a cloud computing service provider or for a consumer of those services.

Since our report was published, the topic of devops continues to come up, often when talking with software development, ALM, cloud computing and other players. However, there are two areas that stand out: devops among database administrators and devops for mobile software development.

In terms of DBAs, they are clearly among the key stakeholders in a devops implementation, given the importance of data, its security and its place in today’s enterprise applications. We saw from another special report Seeding the Clouds, that the data layer was one place where we saw a heavy prevalence of open source software, including Apache Hadoop, NoSQL and other technologies. Data and the people who manage it have an equally significant role in devops.

As for mobile software and mobile application development, the main connection to devops seems to be the idea that organizations must get going right away on whatever projects, teams, products and objectives they can to begin the process of iterating, refining, repeating and succeeding. One of the key themes and best practices in the devops report is to begin the process of joining teams on software releases and updates understanding that the objective is not perfection, but rather, improvement. The better the start, the faster and greater the progress, but one of the key challenges of successfully implementing devops practices is finding a starting point. Once organizations begin to put people and teams together, the efficiencies can happen, but another big aspect of devops is that it is cyclical, going from dev to ops and back for a process that is improved at the same time it is automated. We hear and see a lot of the same type of thinking for mobile application development — getting it started and building from there.

We have provided some sense of devops implementations in some User Deployment Reports (subscribers only): Thomson Reuters and Fox Audience Network. Based on what we’ve seen so far and what we continue to hear from enterprise vendors and customers, we have no doubt that devops will continue to spread into more mainstream enterprise IT and into more enterprise IT conversations.

CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.07.23

Topics for this podcast:

*OSCON conference highlights and impressions
*Rackspace and NASA open source more of cloud computing
*Open core debate du jour
*Open source motors Rhomobile’s multi-smartphone development software

iTunes or direct download (27:39, 7.6MB)

Cloud openness contemplated

I caught some of the keynotes and discussion at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit today, and was particularly interested in the panel discussion on open source and cloud computing. While we are used to hearing and talking about how important open source software is to cloud computing (open source giving to cloud computing), moderator John Mark Walker posed the question of whether cloud computing gives back? The discussion also rightfully focused on openness in cloud computing, how open source might or might not translate to cloud openness and the importance of data to be open as well.

The discussion also centered on some issues regarding open standards and how open is open enough for cloud computing? It may depend on who you ask, but I tend to think that the flexibility, interoperability and portability advantages of open source software will dictate its continued use and true openness in the cloud.

However, this is not always the case. When we consider openness in the mobile market, we see that while open source software is going into more and more smartphones and mobile devices, by the time it gets into the product and into the hands of consumers, it ends up closed. This is not necessarily a violation of open source license, either in rule or in spirit, but rather the use, incorporation and reliance on open source alongside proprietary products, strategies and companies, typically under a permissive license. Much of it also has to do with the need, both perceived and real, for control of code in these devices among hardware, software, wireless carrier and other players with a stake.

Another interesting perspective of what open source means, or doesn’t mean, in terms of cloud computing, standards and interoperability comes from the Xen community’s Simon Crosby of Citrix.

One of the most interesting things to watch when considering whether cloud computing gives back to open source is the AGPLv3 license, which is viewed in different ways as both a burden and a boon to network-based, distributed development by various parties. We continue to see vendors, such as mobile software player Funambol, as strong supporters of AGPL while others, such as Google, continue their resistence to it.

The AGPL also came up in the Linux Foundation Collaboration summit panel again, and while I don’t think the license currently serves as the answer to whether cloud computing gives back to open source, we do see some benefits to open source from cloud computing, both in terms of code, projects and communities and the commercial vendors leveraging open source software. In terms of code, large users of open source software projects, such Linux, MySQL, Hadoop, Cassandra, help to raise the profile and credibility of open source. Whether corporations or university campuses, these large users can also be among the most active community participants — driving features and shaking out bugs, and most prolific code contributors — creating features and extensions and enlarging the ecosystem. In terms of commercial open source vendors, cloud computing can also mitigate the challenges of balancing and differentiating free, community versions and separate, paid versions. If the vendor is able to offer support, services or even extensions with the cloud version of its software, it is easily separated from a free, community version that may be available for free, but not from the cloud.

Of course, there is more that cloud computing can do for open source and there is much more that has to be done to ensure true openness in cloud computing, particularly when some existing and emerging defacto standards are anything but open, but for all that open source is to cloud computing, cloud computing seems to be returning the favor to some degree already.

As the GPL fades

We’re continuing to see signs that the dominant GPL open source license may be fading from favor among commercial open source software players. The latest move away from the GPL comes from content management software vendor Alfresco, which is moving to the LGPL after originally releasing its code under the GPL three years ago. The reasoning for the shift, according to Alfresco CEO John Newton, is the company sees greater opportunity beyond being a software application, particularly given the emergence of the Content Management Interoperability Services standard. Alfresco won mostly praise for its move, and it does make sense given where open source is going these days.

I believe the emerging trend away from GPL and toward more permissive, mixable licenses such as LGPL or Apache reflects the broadening out of open source software not only throughout the enterprise IT software stack, but also throughout uses beyond individual applications, frameworks and systems. More and more open source software vendors are pursuing opportunities in embedded use or OEM deals whereby open source software often must sit alongside or even inside of proprietary code and products. Similar to what we’ve seen in the mobile space — where open source software and development are more prominent than ever, but end products with accessible code are not — open source is broadening out, but it is doing so in many cases by integrating with proprietary code.

We also see some debate about the community and commercial ups and downs of GPL as organizations contemplate the balance of the two and the best way to achieve commercial success with open source software. As Matt highlights, we are seeing a choice of non-GPL licensing in order to more effectively foster community and third-party involvement, but we also continue to see GPL as a top choice to similarly build community.

While the debate about community versus commercial benefit may not necessarily be prompting movement away from GPL, I believe another recent action may indeed do so. The latest series of GPL lawsuits are aimed at raising awareness, profile and legitimacy for open source software. While those bringing the suits — primarily the Software Freedom Law Center — have exhibited a reasonable approach and settled with past lawsuit targets, these suits and publicity may still serve to steer organizations making the choice to other licenses, including the LGPL, BSD, Apache and the Eclipse Public License.

Another factor is the GPL thumping that took place during the SaveMySQL campaign as the European Commission contemplated Oracle’s proposed (and now closed) acquisition of Sun Microsystems and the open source MySQL. I voiced my concern that the SaveMySQL campaign might jeopardize or de-value open source software projects and pieces in M&A, but I believe I’m actually in agreement with SaveMySQL leader Monty Widenius that the deal and process may end up tarnishing the GPL and its reputation in the enterprise.

As stated above, much of the movement we’re seeing away from the GPL has to do with the desire and opportunity to place open source software alongside, within, on top of or otherwise with proprietary software. Non-GPL open source licenses are also more flexible in terms of integrating and bundling with other open source software licensed under other, non-GPL licenses.

We anticipated this fade of GPL as covered in our report, The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation. Given its clout, durability and continued popularity in commercial open source (and with help from continued growth of GPL-licensed Linux) we believe the GPL will endure as a top open source license. However, given their flexibility and the ability to combine with other code, we see a number of other challengers — Apache, BSD, EPL and LGPL — rising while GPL dominance wanes. We’re also watching to see whether the AGPLv3 for networked software will provide new life for GPL-style licensing and community building in emerging virtualized, SaaS and cloud computing environments.

Open source means cost savings

We’ve just published our latest CAOS special report, ‘Climate Change -User perspectives on the impact of economic conditions on open source software adoption.’ The report is based on our recent survey findings among more than 1,700 open source software customers and users, and also offers guidance on calculating cost savings from open source software.

Those open source software customers and end users, which range from large enterprises to SMBs in a variety of industries and geographies, provided further reinforcement to the idea that difficult economic conditions can be good for open source software and its vendors. While we began examining this trend as it began at the end of last year, our November 2009 survey provided confirmation from customers that economic conditions are indeed driving many of their decisions in favor of open source software. When asked whether the current economic climate had impacted their companies’ attitude toward open source, 46.5% said they were more inclined to open source. Another 47.7% reported no change in attitude from the economy, but only 2.5% were less likely to adopt open source given current conditions. Another 3.4% were less likely to adopt any software because of the current economic climate (proprietary or open source).

What also stands out from the survey is the fact that open source software seems to be living up to its reputation as a cost-savings mechanism, meeting or exceeding cost savings expectations almost 90% of the time. Fewer than 5% of our respondents reported that open source software did not meet their cost-savings expectations.

While cost remains the key benefit for organizations deciding on open source software, flexibility emerges as the primary benefit after open source software has been adopted, according to our survey. Cost remains a key benefit, of course, but we also see other factors, such as reliability, performance and speed cited by survey respondents. Vendor lock-in, or avoiding it, is also a perceived benefit of open source software, but this is apparently becoming less important to customers, particularly after adoption.

The report delves more deeply into these and other trends, including both how customers and end users view the benefits of open source software, and how to effectively calculate potential cost savings from open source.

The full Climate Change report, including detailed analysis of the survey results and advice on cost analysis for open source software, is available now. Meanwhile a free version containing only the survey results is also available for download (registration required).

Open source software and the need for speed

We’ve been spending the week at the 451 Group’s 4th Annual Client Conference and speaking to vendors, investors and end users to get their latest perspectives on what is driving open source software in the enterprise.

One consistency among all of these different groups who produce, invest in, provide and use open source software is that while the typical open source advantages of cost and flexibility are still very significant, the biggest driver at the moment appears to be speed.

I think I first began noticing the importance and prominence of development and deployment speed in mobile open source software. As discussed at our client conference panel on the topic, we see hardware manufacturers, device players, wireless carriers and others all looking to mobile Linux and open source software to respond to Apple’s iPhone, which has also served to prove that a ‘non-mobile’ vendor can quickly and effectively stake a claim in the mobile market. These organizations realize that producing their own new operating system from scratch is neither realistic nor pragmatic, given the time and investment it would take. These companies are, however, looking to mobile Linux and open source software as a way to use existing, stable software as the basis for their own branded software and services. Examples include Google and Android, Palm’s WebOS, LiMO and Symbian, which is now being open sourced by Nokia and other backers that are part of the Symbian Foundation. The fact that we have gone from bascially one single Android smartphone in the market a year ago to the cavalcade of Android devices now arriving in various forms from different vendors is indicative of the speed at which open source software can move.

Throughout my conversations with folks attending our event, I’ve heard the speed theme again in other sectors and segments. Of course, application development is a fast-moving proposition, so again, we see vendors looking to open source software as a tool that can shorten their time to market. Again, cost of development, flexibility, customization, lock-in all loom as factors in favor of open source, but the single biggest driver again comes down to speed.

We’ve also seen speed as a factor for building and providing cloud computing infrastructure. Vendors report that Linux is ideal for cloud construction since the availability of source code means that unecessary pieces can be relatively easily and quickly cut out of the OS. In addition, we continue to see a blending of roles between software developer and system administrator/operations. The rise of the devops is also indicative of the need for speed. Developers are pushing to get software released and vetted. Administrators that might otherwise resist cloud computing or other models that may cause some concern about keeping their jobs are being forced to embrace cloud computing anyway. Why? The answer, again, is speed.

Open source is obviously often viewed as a part of agile development and more effective software development, as well as distribution. As the pressure to keep up in mobile, cloud computing and elsewhere continues to build, it will be interesting to see how far open source software’s speed advantages will take it.

A new desktop Linux pitch

At last month’s LinuxCon event, I enjoyed talks on desktop Linux from the likes of Dirk Hohndel and IBM’s Bob Sutor, but to completely honest, I wasn’t quite sure I understood their thinking when they implored desktop Linux creators and supporters to look beyond Windows replacement and emulation. I get the idea of being different or better as opposed to just a replacement, but I wasn’t quite sure how this would translate to customers or in the market. However, after the recent announcement from IBM and Canonical of a Linux-based desktop package and some recent press inquiries, I’m beginning to see the light.

You see, it has less to do with the the user interface and more to do with the user. Instead of focusing on Windows familiarity, the latest strategy takes advantage of users in a position, whether by trade or preference or chance, to use Linux, provide some savings and maybe even go further in supporting themselves. These are the new Linux desktop users in enterprise and business. While Windows 7 and Microsoft’s dominance will likely continue to hold most of the desktop, there are a handful of significant differences this time around:

1.) The IBM-Canonical Client for Smart Work — a package of Ubuntu Linux, Eclipse, and IBM Lotus and other collaboration and productivity software — was originally rolled out and intended for emerging markets, initially Africa. However, based on customer queries and demand, it is now being offered in the U.S. I believe this may indicate that America, while still behind Europe and other parts of the world in adopting desktop Linux, is keeping up with desktop Linux growth, progress and demand.

2.) Economic conditions are driving reassessments of all enterprise and smaller business IT and planning, including desktop, laptop, netbook and other PCs. This does not mean that desktop Linux will necessarily benefit, but if the server side is any indication, it will gain considerably more interest and use.

3.) New models are changing the way enterprise and other users use a PC. Virtual appliances, virtual desktops and cloud computing all usher in radically new desktop models and make Linux more likely to enter the picture (whether or not customers are aware of it). The movement of the desktop support from the IT helpdesk to the datacenter also bodes well for Linux, which has a strong foothold and following on the server. Furthermore, consistency of Linux across PCs, netbooks, datacenters and networks may also make desktop Linux hardware, efficiency, energy and support savings more dramatic and appealing.

4.) New vendors (non-Linux vendors) will be offering more Linux. We see a range of IT players — service providers, hosters, system integrators, VARs and others — increasingly using Linux and delivering Linux to their customers, who may or may not be aware they are running Linux. This is where there may be most opportunity for desktop Linux among SMBs.

5.) Finally, Windows 7 and the need to upgrade hardware and continue to license OS software and pay for upgrades arrives at a time when it is no longer the norm to refresh desktops every two or three years, and it is increasingly attractive to find a Linux alternative to push licensing costs over to support, where there is great need. This may be one of the last efforts with this older model, particularly considering all of the trends mentioned above with Linux.

Software patent game plays out

Following the release of our report, ‘The Myth of Open Source License Proliferation’ and during research for it, we heard and sensed a feeling that open source software licenses had evolved to become a generally well-accepted piece of the the enterprise IT and IP market. However, we also heard from numerous vendors, developers and other individuals that the next battlefront is obviously software patents, which are in need of reform, according to many supporters of free and open source software.

This week, we saw some of the software patent skirmishes that are driving and validating this thinking. There was first news that the Open Invention Network, the consortium dedicated to legal and IP defense of Linux, had bought some software patents that related to Linux, which admittedly is not hard to do these days. It turned out the 22 Linux-focused patents were purchased from Allied Security Trust, which had actually purchased them from none other than Microsoft. This might not have meant a whole lot, with OIN proclaiming a victory and Microsoft stating simply that the patents did not hold much value to them. However, the plot thickened as we heard from FOSS defender Eben Moglen, from Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin and from vendor Red Hat, that Microsoft may have been shopping the patents around to would-be patent trolls who would do the dirty work of FUD on their own.

Frankly, it has been my position that the market is determining the fate of Linux in embedded uses, mobile devices, desktops, servers, clusters and clouds, and no vendor or vendor-generated FUD will significantly disrupt that. Still, I recognize the importance of promptly and directly countering FUD. Microsoft is largely sticking to its story that the patents did not represent significant value and were thus put on the block for sale. Although it might not acknowledge it, the company is actually correct in that asserted patents or IP that relate in any way to Linux or other open source technologies are of little value, since asserting them invokes the full and forceful response of Linux and its defenders, ranging from the likes of Moglen, Zemlin and the OIN to bitter rivals such as Red Hat and IBM.

The patent spat is also juxtaposed against Microsoft’s efforts to participate and improve its profile in open source and among developers with the CodePlex Foundation as covered by Matt, which also marks the departure of Sam Ramji, who has skillfully headed Microsoft’s efforts to change stance and approach on open source and will be sorely missed.

If we were keeping score, I would say Linux and open source have scored a point (acquiring the patents) while Microsoft has lost one (Ramji’s departure). However, I must also point out that in today’s enterprise IT environments and markets, it is very rare to see a case of EITHER open source OR proprietary software and is almost always in a case of BOTH. We have seen attacks on open source, from Microsoft and others, evolve from targeting its core tenets and ideas to attacking open source licensing. As open source and proprietary software continue to interface, interact and integrate, the patent questions, threats and implications seem to be the next battlefield, only this time Linux and open source are far better established and armed while Microsoft is coming to grips with its loss of market control.

Proprietary vendors, open source communities?

We’ve written before and covered the emulation of open source software development and communities by vendors that are not open source. One prime example is SolarWinds, which recently bucked the bad economy with a successful IPO. By providing low-price, low-friction sales and promoting its community of users that work with its own developers, SolarWinds resembles many of the open source software vendors I cover. In my recent conversation with SolarWinds, the company agreed it sees an open source approach helping it harness the power of individuals, which now number more than 20,000 in terms of active, registered SolarWinds users.

Another proprietary vendor, VMware, also recently displayed an open source-like approach with its Code Central, which is intended as a place where VMware administrators can trade, compare and refine scripts. Sounds somewhat like an open source software community, but obviously there are significant differences. Still, with its free versions and communities, VMware is another vendor that, wisely, sometimes behaves like an open source player.

The larger theme here is that open source software vendors must be aware that proprietary players are copying some of their best plays. At the same time, as we have covered in reports and blogs, we see an increased pervasiveness of ‘open core’ models, whereby the vendor’s core software is open source, but is also sold under commercial licensing terms as well. I’m reminded of a recent Twitter post from Matt Asay, who overheard, ‘Most companies, both open source and proprietary, now provide both free and paid versions.’ Matt then asks how should open source software differentiate, and this is a good and important question.

Our warnings to open source vendors not to undo the advantages of open source with complicated licensing, developer agreements etc. become even more significant. Dual licensing and a commercial version is fine, as long as everything is clear and up front.

Obviously, the biggest difference between open source and proprietary vendors is the code. This is where open source advantages that might not seem tied to available, open, transparent code can really differentiate those truly focused on open source. Regardless of whether an organization wants to take the source code of an open source project and work with it, that open code is tied to other advantages. First, is the modularity, flexibility and interoperability of open source software. Second is the avoidance of vendor lock-in, which looms large in enterprise IT and particularly in cloud computing, where lock-in is among the biggest concerns.

There are still significant differences between proprietary and open source software vendors and between the different types of software, and these differences aren’t going away. However, as proprietary players continue to emulate and take lessons from open source, vendors that actually are on the open source side will have to work harder to differentiate from them and compete with them.

Cisco settles, but why did we go here?

Although we did hear some battle alarms when the FSF sued networking and IT giant Cisco late last year, others (including me) anticipated a settlement along the lines of previous resolutions between free and open source software proponents and users/vendors that needed legal action to prompt compliance.

I was fortunate enough to speak with open source licensing and legal expert Larry Rosen recently (doing research for an upcoming CAOS report on which there will be more to tell soon) and get his take on this recent settlement. First he made the point, as most legal scholars do, that 99% of the time, settlement is the most desired, most effective way to end litigation, whichever end the involved parties are on. This was part of my reasoning that, similar to what we saw with Verizon, we would see a settlement from Cisco. However, Rosen raises the question of how and why it got to the point of a lawsuit in the first place when both parties are surely aware of where things should head?

The FSF and SFLC wish to raise the profile, prominence and recognition of open source licensing and they are effectively doing so with the series of suits they have launched and subsequently settled. However, would there be just as much credibility for open source software if these FOSS-supportive groups came out with announcements that they had avoided litigation with Company X following some fairly simple steps to bring them into compliance. Perhaps that was not possible without legal action, and I must offer my praise for the reasonable approach to settlement we’ve seen displayed.

I do think the FSF and SFLC have done a good job establishing that open source software licenses such as the GPL are not so foreign and are backed up by the law. However, I also wonder if the desire to establish some actual legal precedent in the U.S., as discussed previously on our blog, is contributing to the move to file lawsuits. This also serves to remind us that while open source software and the licenses that govern it have become far more accepted and common in the enterprise, there is certainly still some lack of awareness and need for education. Developers, vendors, users and distributors of open source software would be wise to educate themselves in the ‘classroom’ setting to avoid ending up in a ‘courtroom’ setting.

Open source tunes into the channel

A new effort was announced by prominent open source software vendors — Red Hat and charter members Alfresco, EnterpriseDB, Ingres, Jaspersoft, Likewise, Pentaho, Zmanda, Zenoss and Zimbra — and channel player SYNNEX to extend open source software into the all-important sales and distribution channels of mid-market value-aded resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs).

As covered in our recent CAOS Theory links, the Open Source Channel Alliance was unveiled as a way to push open source software further in the mid-market with cost-savings and and quality software.

The idea is strangely familiar to the Red Hat Exchange network launched two years ago with similar founders. That effort began similarly targeted toward providing smaller customers a stack of open source software, but quickly transitioned to serve more as a partner network. There will certainly be a challenge in making the Open Source Channel Alliance appeal to the key channel consultants, outfits and firms of the midmarket, where there is indeed greater interest in open source software. The Channel Alliance does coincide with a couple of trends we’re seeing in the market.

First, as discussed in Matt’s recent entry on the drivers of enterprise open source, cost may be what leads customers and users to open source software. However, other factors, such as availability of source code, flexibility, feature-development and time-to-market become more important over time. Furthermore, I believe it is the quality of open source software that is driving further use, paid use and the spread of open source software not only from insfrastructure to applications, but also from enterprise to mid-market and SMB customers.

Second, we do see evidence of open source vendors increasingly reaching out and successfully connecting with channel resellers and partners, as well as growing their own direct sales to smaller customers. Two recent examples that are the subject of coming 451 Group reports are JumpBox, which provides open source software in virtual appliances for smaller customers and Untangle, which mixes open source and SaaS to deliver its network gateway security software to service providers, other resellers and SMBs.

Many of the enterprise, mid-market and SMB channel players have seen the open source writing on the wall for some time, but have resisted because of skepticism, inertia and a history of making money from the traditional licensing models. However, now that open source is emerging as a term that customers, including mid-market and SMB ones, want to hear and associate with cost-savings, these channel players, particularly the ones that have not already branched into and benefited from open source software, are realizing the need to have open source in their tool bags.

Perhaps the new Open Source Channel Alliance effort will provide further evidence that the greater opportunity for open source continues to be in the enterprise market. However, given economic conditions and its timing, the initiatiave may be just the resource that’s needed to bring channel partners over to open source in greater numbers. This could also perpetuate increased interest and use of open source software among channel vendors and smaller users.