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August 14, 2005

Atos Origin predicts open source software landscape

IT services provider Atos Origin SA has predicted a forthcoming change in the software landscape based on the results of a survey it has carried out in conjunction with the UK's National Computing Centre.

By CBR Staff Writer

The research was undertaken by the NCC with the Atos Consulting arm of the Paris, France-based services firm, and revealed that more than two-thirds of the senior IT professionals questioned expect their companies to develop an open source strategy in the next five years, despite ongoing caution about the adoption of open source in the UK.

The survey, which was compiled through over 140 web-based questionnaires completed by senior UK IT professionals in May and June, indicated that over 60% believe open source will either increase its presence in certain business areas or be a fundamental component in core IT systems, while 73% expect open source to develop within their organizations’ IT strategy over the next five years.

Of that 73%, 4% expect open source to dominate and be widespread throughout the organization, with the rest expecting the influence of open source software to be limited to core areas, with 41% of those identifying individual business areas as growth opportunities, 17% expecting it to be a fundamental component of core IT systems, and 11% expecting it to be a niche option in non-core IT functions.

Only 4% of those questioned expected their use of open source software to reduce over the next five years, while 19% were unsure at this stage of the potential influence of open source on their company’s IT strategy.

The survey shows that adoption of open source is set to increase significantly over the next few years resulting in a new software industry landscape that offers companies more cost effective options, said Noomane Fehri, head of Atos Origin’s innovation team. Open Source is maturing fast, as are the business models that address the support issue, and if companies prepare thoroughly, defining an Open Source adoption roadmap from the outset, tangible cost benefits can be realized in a very short time.

Awareness of open source technologies showed the breadth of open source offerings that are available to enterprises, although some scored better than others in terms of technologies that enterprises are both aware of, and would consider deploying. Linux (68%) led the pack, ahead of Apache (67%), Mozilla (55%), PHP/Perl (53%), and the MySQL database (52%).

There were also a number of technologies that respondents were well aware of, but which most would not consider deploying, with OpenOffice, PostgreSQL, JBoss, Thunderbird, Mambo, Zope, Exim, and Sleepycat, falling into this category.

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Other technologies scoring well in terms of awareness and deployment included Tomcat, OpenLDAP and Samba, while the Eclipse development suite scored surprisingly low considering it was named the most popular Java development environment by BZ Research in January 2005.

The survey also indicated that over 50% of businesses have already adopted or are planning to adopt open source, and over 55% either accept or include open source in a tender. Policies to manage the adoption of open source are lacking, however.

Of the 41% of organizations that have already adopted open source, only 12% said they have a clear policy to manage the process, while of the 15% that are planning to adopt open source, only 4% have policies in place.

The perceived benefits of open source were ranked reasonably evenly, with the cost of the license ranked highest (27%), followed by total cost of ownership and flexibility (both 23%), and 20% identifying access to the source code as a benefit.

Meanwhile, there was a clear leader in terms of the perceived inhibitors for open source adoption, with the lack of long-term support scoring 33%, ahead of legal issues related to intellectual property and copyright (21%), and a lack of understanding of the benefits, and a lack of clarity on potential return on investment (both 19%).

The perceived lack of long-term support and the lack of open source adoption policies will come as little surprise to the new breed of solutions- and services-focused vendors that have emerged in the open source market over the last six months or so such as SpikeSource Inc, SourceLabs Inc, and OpenLogic Inc.

As well as existing services vendors such as Atos, these companies see growing demand for businesses that can stand behind a variety of open source projects, providing testing, integration and consulting services, as well as support and maintenance, and will be buoyed by the survey, which also indicates demand for the sort of services they are providing.

Asked what kinds of products and services would assist them in adopting open source software, 33% of the respondent to the Atos Consulting/NCC survey indicated that access to, and availability of, technical strategy on how to adopt open source would help.

Other services required included analysis of how to reduce total cost of ownership via open source (24%), access to an open source support service (15%), and audit and assessment services (14%), followed by demonstrations (9%), and trial sites (7%).

The survey is backed up by a recent study by Larstan Reports of federal IT managers in the civilian and defense sectors in the US, which indicated that 60% of respondents believe that the perception of a lack of contract options for open source migrations makes the RFP/procurement process too costly, too long, and too complicated. That was despite 54% of respondents to the survey indicating that they believed an open source architecture would be valuable and should be adopted by their organization.

Research figures such as this will be music to the ears of SourceLabs and SpikeSource, which are looking to compete with the services giants in the small but growing market for open source services.

Last year, IDC said Linux and free software was responsible for less than 1% of the total western European IT services market, but was growing faster than the market as a whole and was set to hit $228m by 2008 from $98m.

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