Gartner is out with a press release on February 7 that I find surprising. It says that about half of enterprises use open source software. I would have thought the penetration would be much higher. After all, suppliers have been providing software under open source terms and conditions for over 50 years, since long before the mid 1990s when the term was co-opted by the software industry from the intelligence community.
I am not surprised that the Gartner survey found that only about 33% of organizations had a formal open-source-software policy. Back in the day, IT shops didn't have a policy on the number of sprocket holes in printer paper either. It is what it is. Open source -- like I say, long before the term became popular (see this timeless article I wrote on the history of open source) -- is just a fact of life. I am also not surprised that Gartner said:
"Nearly one-third of respondents cited benefits of flexibility, increased innovation, shorter development times and faster procurement processes as reasons for adopting OSS solutions."
Open source is not about free and it's not about ideology. It's about what's best for the business. Open source is a license term and condition that delivers three of those four benefits explicitly. (I am not sure what "increased innovation" means; as compared to what?)
Then the question becomes "Is open source something you can invest in?"
Not specifically because all the leading enterprise software suppliers understand this decades-old market dynamic. In addition, IBM, HP and a few others actually co-opted the 1990s-era term for it shortly after it was invented by heavily funding the different consortia and groups that promoted the concept and specific code available under the various (dozens) open source licenses.
Microsoft (MSFT) was late to the party but pretty much joined unofficially early in the last decade and officially joined in 2010 when it became a large contributor to the Apache Software Foundation and separately settled its war with the European Union Competition Commission. Of course, Microsoft -- because of its size as leader of the enterprise software market -- long enjoyed the benefits of an open source community (reduced research and development costs) without having to have a battery of lawyers keeping up with its terms and conditions. (The lawyers were all busy fighting the EU.)
At one point in the past, Oracle (ORCL) might have been concerned with Gartner's findings that data management is a key application of open source. Bur Oracle now "owns"/markets both the flagship open- and closed-source data-management code sets. So not to worry.
The one thing I would ask of the methodology is the size of the companies surveyed. Gartner says it conducted its research of 547 IT guys in 11 countries. That indicates to me that the survey is really only talking about large IT organizations and not mid-size and smaller enterprises, where open source pentetration is likely lower.
-- Dennis Byron