Sunday, April 06, 2008

The State of Open Source, 2008

The State of Open Source, 2008
3 April 2008

Yefim V. Natis George J. Weiss Mark Driver Nicholas Gall Daniel Sholler Brian Prentice

To determine the industry standing of open-source software, Gartner asked more than 50 analysts to comment on the state of open source in their areas of research. The resulting picture is a rare multidimensional view on this elusive but high-impact topic.


Open source is a phenomenon with a broad impact (see "Toolkit: The Open-Source Landscape, 2007" for Gartner's definition of open source). Chances are, if you do not think you use it, then you use it; and if you think you do use it, then you use lots more of it than you know. Few software products do not carry some embedded open-source components, and few IT users do not have some open-source technology running in their production environments.

The broad and partly stealth impact of open source makes it difficult to track for most users. Sure, there are the highly visible pure open-source products (Linux, MySQL, JBoss, Eclipse and others), but the role of embedded open source is less visible, yet has more of an impact. Users who reject open source for technical, business or legal reasons might find themselves unintentionally using open source despite their opposition. Users who want to establish a strict control over their exposure to open source may fail to achieve it unless they establish a comprehensive enterprise management strategy. Vendors that are considered staunch open-source opponents might quietly depend partly on open source, and the difference between the so-called open-source and closed-source vendors may be much less than you think. Most importantly, the Internet was built on open source in the 1970s, and the "cloud" is being built on open source today. Not understanding the essentials and the essential impact of open-source software is not understanding today's software landscape.

When it comes to pure open-source products, selected by users directly, the overall adoption of open source in 2008 is strong, yet not without challenges. Linux is well-established for certain classes of projects, but its major benefit — low cost — is declining in the face of increasing total cost of ownership (TCO) issues as Linux is applied against more-demanding enterprise projects. The adoption of MySQL and JBoss is increasing but remains only a minor share of their respective total markets. The leading vendors in the application infrastructure space (BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle) retain more of a leadership position with their closed-source products than vendors that offer open-source alternatives. Most of the closed-source vendors have passed the stage of rejection and denial of open source and, instead, have turned to open source as a key part of their software development strategies, drawing on its technical quality, low cost and favorable licensing terms. This phenomenon is especially strong with the new breed of Web, Web 2.0 and cloud-computing vendors. Most use open-source software for their platform technology and as their programming environment. For most organizations, open source is the defining part of their enabling software strategies.

To evaluate the state of open source, it is not sufficient simply to measure the penetration of Linux or the few other most visible open-source products. These are only the tip of the iceberg in understanding the presence and the role that open source plays in today's software industry and in mainstream enterprise IT. The embedded open source is delivered and installed quietly with most software products and is the definitive technology inside a growing number of new software offerings. To assess the full scope of influence of open source in today's software industry, we assembled a team of more than 50 Gartner analysts and asked them to assess the state and outlook of open source in their respective areas of expertise.

The following open-source research covers many areas of technology; however, it is far from an exhaustive list of all the areas influenced by open source. The vendors section, in particular, examines the impact of open source on only a few non-open-source vendors of industry influence. Coverage of the leading open-source vendors, including Red Hat and Novell, is outside the scope of this report, but is well-represented in Gartner's larger research offerings. Geography lists could also be expanded to include South America, North America and other areas not covered here. We invite clients to monitor ongoing Gartner research as it continues to broaden our insight into the open-source phenomenon and its deepening impact on IT markets.





Business Issues

Here are some highlights from our open-source analysis.

By 2013, a majority of Linux deployments will have no real software TCO advantage over other operating systems (OSs).

The perception of TCO benefits associated with Linux is rooted in its early Web and infrastructure deployments, but as a result of escalating OS environment costs, in reality, the TCO advantage will decline and will, at most, be equal to and possibly worse than other OSs. The costs to implement high-performance, mission-critical infrastructure around the OS will create counterbalancing costs to the savings in the subscription support costs on commodity hardware and associated open-source software. For example, much of the availability, management and database management system licensing costs will remain proprietary, licensed software. In addition, IT architects will confront the same issues of workload management, service levels, premium support, test and certification that characterize other OS environments. Moreover, version control and incompatibilities will continue to plague open-source OSs and associated middleware. Software vendors have been reluctant and resistant to change their license terms, regardless of the open-source nature of the OS.

By 2012, more than 90% of enterprises will use open source in direct or embedded forms.

Most successful vendors will find ways to leverage open source in technical synergy — focusing their core engineering efforts on true value-added features and functionality above the "commoditized" layer of open-source software. These vendors will integrate with open-source solutions, embed open-source technology as a foundational building block and compete directly with open source only as a last resort. The majority of users will use open-source products directly, but even those that decide against it will still be using it in the embedded form (including embedded open-source XML handling, Web interactions, data management, user interactions, transaction processing, rule processing and many other supporting functions).

By 2011, open source will dominate software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.

One of the most fundamental differences between cloud-based business services and traditional on-premises business software packages is that, in the traditional model, the consumer must pay for the underlying infrastructure (hardware purchases and software licenses). Accordingly, software package providers care little, if at all, about the economics of such infrastructure. Contrast this with cloud-based providers whose cost of services offered (the equivalent of the package provider's cost of goods sold) is dominated by the cost of such infrastructure. This basic economic shift has driven the majority of cloud-based providers to strongly embrace commodity hardware and open-source software to drive down the cost of services offered to unprecedented levels. In particular, unlike the majority of enterprise data centers, the largest cloud-based data centers are self-supporting the Linux kernel instead of paying a license fee for a managed Linux distribution (such as Red Hat) to completely eliminate software license fees. Only by radically reducing their infrastructure costs can cloud-based providers offer the pricing models (based on radically lower profit margins) necessary to disrupt the incumbent packaged software. Thus, the simple economics of "cost of goods sold" will drive "zero software license fee" open source to be the dominant (more than two-thirds) software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.

By 2012, software as a service (SaaS) will eclipse open source as the preferred enterprise IT cost-cutting method.

To an enterprise, embracing SaaS amounts to embracing services in place of software. Open source and SaaS are priced by subscription and operate on low profit margins. Both are an answer to reducing enterprise costs of IT, but the SaaS proposition additionally reduces the requirements for IT technical skills, while open source tends to increase this requirement. The SaaS providers will remain fully dependent on software and software infrastructure, while the user organizations make the transition to services. The SaaS providers will welcome all open-source projects that help them expedite their projects, reduce their costs, and improve the quality and agility of their software. The users, however, will be nearly oblivious to whether open source plays any part in the services they are buying from the SaaS providers. More technically adventurous IT projects will often prefer the direct use of open-source and on-premises software development, but the mainstream IT organization looking to reduce the IT cost burden will tend to choose SaaS where it is available.

The Gartner coverage of open source has been consistently focused on the best practices, challenges and opportunities that the business and technology phenomena of open source bring to the software industry and to the operations of the mainstream enterprise IT department. Some of the notable Gartner reports published in the past six to 18 months to shed light on these issues include:

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