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June 24, 2013

Open Source technology investment to increase significantly by 2018

More than half of UK private and public sector organisations will spend at least 20% of their IT budget on Open Source applications and software within the next five years, new research has revealed.

By Duncan Macrae

The Open for Business study, conducted by IT service provider Reconnix, showed that 61% of respondents intend to invest 20% or more into Open Source, with the majority -48% – expecting to invest between 20% – 40%. A total of 10% believe that their Open Source spend could account for as much as 60% of their total budget.

This represents a huge climb, up from the 72% of IT leaders who say that they oversee a portfolio in which just a fifth or under (0-20%) is made up of Open Source technology today. The survey also revealed that investment levels in Open Source technology will continue to rise in the long-term (the next ten years) with 16% of respondents suggesting that they expect to allocate 40-60% of their budgets to Open Source technology investment by 2023. A further 4% believe they will be allocating between 80-100% of their budgets to Open Source technology by that time.

Set against a backdrop of challenges including reduced IT budgets, a lack of IT skills and IT infrastructures burdened by complexity, this drive for future investment may well be hampered by the current levels of Open Source traction. This is reflected in 77% of respondents that indicated that they intend to invest less than 20% of their total IT spend on Open Source technology in the next 12 months.

Barriers to Open Source adoption are rife. Nearly half of IT leaders (47%) revealed that cost implications and another 43% that vendor lock in are current barriers to the adoption of Open Source technology. These leaders also indicated that a lack of in-house skills to implement Open Source solutions was holding them back, while 55% of IT leaders also agreed that that there is little to no understanding of Open Source amongst C-level decision makers outside of the IT department – potentially making it harder to justify investment into this technology to the executive level.

Steve Nice, CTO of Reconnix, explained: "While Open Source is definitely on the agenda for IT leaders, many seem hesitant to invest in it as a priority, preferring to put it off as a challenge to resolve in the medium term.

"The reality is that the sooner Open Source is adopted into an organisation’s IT Eco-System, the sooner an organisation as a whole can benefit from the flexibility, agility and cost savings associated with this type of technology."

In March of 2011, the Cabinet Office introduced a directive that Open Source systems should be selected ahead of proprietary systems on the basis of flexibility for public sector IT projects (where the Open Source solution was not more expensive in terms of cost).

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While this directive has recently been changed to level the playing field between Open Source and existing proprietary vendors, the research revealed that in the next five years as much as 45% of IT leaders in the public sector will invest 20-40% of their overall budgets into Open Source technology. Similarly, in the private sector the levels of investment are set to rise in the next five years with half of private sector IT leaders suggesting they will invest between 20-40% of their budgets into Open Source technology.

Nice added: "Even though the Cabinet Office introduced guidelines urging the use of open systems over two years ago, the current uptake of the technology still appears to be slow, with 81% of IT leaders indicating that only 0-20% of their budgets will be allocated to Open Source technology in the next twelve months. Cost effectiveness and flexibility of IT projects is an issue for right now, not something that can be batted into the long grass to be dealt with at a later date – which is why investment in Open Source will continue to grow.

"Ultimately, the benefits of Open Source software have been well documented, but there is also huge potential for any enterprise to make significant savings in terms of total cost of ownership and enjoy the flexibility and agility by moving to Open Platforms. This is especially true when one considers that the vast majority of IT decision makers surveyed had less than a fifth or no Open Source software at all as part of their infrastructure," concluded Nice.

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