Slew of Fears Slows Open-Source Uptake

By studying enterprises' open-source use, SourceLabs finds that many are discouraged by unintegrated components and the lack of "one throat to choke" when problems arise.

The biggest question facing open-source developers is, after Linux, what can be done to spur efforts toward complete open-source software stacks?

After researching open-source use in large enterprises, SourceLabs Inc., a Seattle startup founded by former Microsoft Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. executives, may have discovered why broad adoption of open-source technology beyond Linux has been slow.

SourceLabs found that difficulty in acquiring technology; concerns about licensing constraints; and a lack of integration, testing and support all contribute to the slow adoption of open-source technology.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here for a column on the benefits of truly open code.

"Even though there is a lot of buzz around open source, enterprises are still spending 11 figures on proprietary solutions," said Byron Sebastian, CEO of SourceLabs.

"Because the open-source projects are autonomous, it poses a challenge for enterprises because the components are not integrated," Sebastian said. "Customers said they felt like they had to do a lot of the testing themselves."

"We wind up testing and integrating open-source components ourselves and paying the price in our schedule," said Peter Horadan, senior director of R&D at Concur Technologies Inc., a Redmond, Wash., maker of a proprietary expense management solution based on open-source components. "When youre working to get your product to customers as quickly as possible, thats a price we dont want to pay."

To address the dependability issue, SourceLabs has created CERT7, a facility for testing open-source technology for enterprise readiness, Sebastian said.

Cornelius Willis, SourceLabs vice president, said CERT7 fills the gap between the testing proprietary software vendors provide and that provided by the open-source community. Yet, "its not proprietary; its something well be sharing with the community," Willis said.

"One big issue I see that has hindered open-source adoption is the lack of a commercial entity that can help ease all of these issues," said John Garris, a San Francisco-based vice president of LabMorgan, the e-finance engine of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. "Enterprises are ... set up to work with commercial entities—much of the value they receive in paying for technology isnt in the license but in the security of knowing theres somebody they can put pressure on in case something goes wrong."

Sebastian agreed that enterprise customers want "one throat to choke" when problems arise.

"Support and maintenance are cornerstones in addressing this," he said. "To adopt open source above and beyond Linux, customers need to know they will be supported."

SourceLabs will deliver an AMP (Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack, tested on various Linux versions, by June.

Why open-source adoption stalls:
  • Difficult to acquire
  • No integrated systems
  • No system dependability commitment
  • No mission-critical support.

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