Open-source software will be present in every enterprise within the year, according to research firm Gartner.
The company said 85 percent of companies currently using open-source software, with the remaining 15 percent expecting to in the next 12 months.
The findings come from a Gartner survey in May and June 2008, which covered 274 end-user organisations in Asia/Pacific, Europe and North America, and raise a series of management issues for businesses.
The analyst group found that 69 percent of companies surveyed lacked a formal policy for evaluating and cataloguing OSS usage. This could open up "huge potential liabilities for intellectual-property violations", it warned.
"Just because something is free doesn't mean that it has no cost," said Laurie Wurster, research director at Gartner.
"Companies must have a policy for procuring OSS, deciding which applications will be supported by OSS, and identifying the intellectual property risk or supportability risk associated with using OSS. Once a policy is in place, then there must be a governance process to enforce it."
OSS is being deployed almost equally in mission-critical and non-mission-critical environments for new projects, said Gartner.
The top three reasons for using OSS were total cost of ownership, cheaper development the fact that it is easier to embark on new IT projects or software initiatives using an open source base.
"Some respondents indicated that they also use OSS as investment protection against a single vendor 'owning' the entire IT department," Gartner noted.
Others said that the major business reason was faster time to market for new products and the ability to avoid complex procurement rules and procedures.
However, the survey revealed that governance was the single most important challenge for OSS users, followed by conflicting terms and conditions and the availability of too many licence types and forms.
"Understanding when and how an OSS alternative may be used is a frustrating process, especially when there are so many licence types and forms from which to choose," said Wurster.
"As time goes by, many of these concerns will be addressed, but this continues to be a slow process. Increases in OSS popularity and in the rate of OSS adoption will drive the required changes."
The most important business processes where OSS projects are used are customer service, enterprise integration, finance and administration, business analytics, sales and marketing, customer analytics, field service, ERP and CRM.