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Open Source Software Is Now a Norm in Businesses

Fully adopted by mainstream enterprises with ever-increasing confidence, open software faces a bright future, a survey says.

We've already seen mounting evidence that the numerous benefits of open source software are making a big impression on businesses far and wide, and this week saw the release of yet more data corroborating that fact.

At the Computerworld-sponsored Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco, North Bridge Venture Partners on Monday announced the results of its annual "Future of Open Source Survey."

Currently in its fifth year, the study's results for 2011 suggest that open source is now fully embraced by organizations in both the public and private sectors, and that user confidence in such open technologies is growing "dramatically," North Bridge said.

'Open Source Has Gone Mainstream'

"When we started this survey five years ago, open source was still a movement that was in its nascent stages and its future was promising but still unknown," said Michael Skok, a general partner with North Bridge. "Since then, the survey has documented the steady rise of open source.

"The results of this year's survey clearly demonstrate that open source has gone mainstream, not just within the vendor community, but within customer organizations of all types and sizes," Skok added.

"Based on what we are seeing from our investments, it's exciting to see new growth driven by the inherent benefits of open source like community-driven innovation and from fast growing markets such as cloud and mobile computing," he said.

Industry Collaborators

Conducted in partnership with The 451 Group, North Bridge's 2011 survey involved more than 20 industry collaborators--including Red Hat, Cloudera, Acquia and JPMorgan Chase--and polled a wide variety of members of the open source community on the key issues, opportunities and expectations for the industry for 2011 and beyond.

More than 450 respondents took part, including representatives from both the vendor and non-vendor communities.

The survey asked respondents about a wide range of issues affecting the open source software (OSS) landscape, including the economic impact on OSS, key drivers and barricades for OSS adoption, and suggestions for building and maintaining a profitable OSS business model.

A Majority Within 5 Years

With greater end-user participation than ever before, the survey's findings suggest that open source software is well on its way to becoming an enterprise majority. In fact, not only did participation span all levels of IT management, from developers to C-level executives, North Bridge says, but--for the first time in the survey's history--end users accounted for a full 60 percent of respondents.

Perhaps most notable among the study's results was the fact that a full 56 percent of respondents believe that more than half of software purchases made in the next five years will be open source.

Existing enterprise users of open source software, meanwhile, are now more focused on mainstream technology issues such as improved operational excellence around areas including support, product management, feature functionality and return on investment. In previous years, by contrast, the legal implications of licensing and conformance with internal policies were bigger concerns.

Price Is Not Paramount

The turbulent economy continues to be good for open source software, a full 95 percent of respondents agreed, though once again--much as in the Linux Foundation's results a while back--free costs were not the top feature of open source software, they said.

Rather, for the first year ever, freedom from vendor lock-in was cited as the feature that makes such software more attractive, respondents said.

SaaS, cloud and mobile were named as the main areas that are driving open source growth, North Bridge reported. In 2010 there were 3,800 new open source based projects in mobile, for example--more than double the number in 2009. Meanwhile, there are now more than 470 open source projects targeting cloud computing.

'The Benefits Are Many and Varied'

"The 451 Group's research has previously shown that the benefits of open source software are many and varied, and The Future of Open Source Survey highlights the fact that multiple factors are driving the increased adoption of open source software, including freedom from vendor lock-in, greater flexibility and lower cost," said Matt Aslett, a senior analyst with The 451 Group.

Indeed, just as governments and organizations around the globe are becoming more transparent, accountable and inclusive, it seems increasingly clear that open source software is becoming the new standard for businesses.

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