Oracle Users: Keen on Open Source

Although a majority of Oracle users who participated in a recent study don't or won't use open-source databases, the uptake of open source in general is going strong.

Although a majority of Oracle users who participated in a recent study dont or wont use open-source databases, the uptake of open source in general is going strong.

Sixty percent of Oracle users who responded to a survey put out by the Independent Oracle Users Group are using open-source operating systems somewhere in their operations.

According to the study, an additional 56 percent are running an open-source application server or framework, and 37 percent are running at least one major open-source database brand alongside their Oracle installations.

The study, titled Open Source in the Stack: IOUG 2006 Survey on Open Source Trends, was based on responses from 269 Oracle users in the IOUGs member base.

The IOUG surveyed its membership in June. About half of the respondents —49 percent—were DBAs (database administrators).

Twenty-eight percent of respondents were software developers or architects, and 20 percent were managers or executives.

IOUG President Ari Kaplan said that the survey results—released the week before LinuxWorld in San Francisco, from Aug. 14 to 17—show that open source is taking off big-time in enterprises.

"At the beginning, companies were very reluctant to have open-source solutions anywhere in the enterprise," he said.

"Not only are they doing it [now] but theyre doing it in mission-critical systems."

Not in huge numbers, though. The survey showed that most open-source deployments at respondents sites are on the fringe of the enterprise, represented by Web servers or single-function servers, as opposed to core applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications. Open-source middleware or application servers are the most likely to show up in enterprises.

"I think just having companies using open source in general for mission-critical anything is a powerful statement," Kaplan said.

"I remember when it first came out, IT managers were asking, Is it secure? Does it scale? What about support? Thats not really an issue now."

Maybe its not the roadblock it once may have been, but support is still a disincentive to enterprise adoption, though.

Thirty-five percent of respondents cited a main limitation of open source being more difficult maintenance and support. Thirty-two percent reported that enterprise support isnt as robust as commercial support, as well.

"The quality [of support] is actually going down," Kaplan said. "It could be because there are more and more open-source products out there, versus in the past, when there was just a handful of well-known products."

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Those who found open-source support options less robust than commercial support options are likely to be users with less experience, Kaplan said.

"Real expert people dont use support unless theres some major issue," he said. "People new to it rely on support a lot more."

Another main limitation to the adoption of open source is perceptions of inferior security.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said security was an issue. This runs counter to the common thinking that open-source code is more thoroughly vetted than closed-source code, with an abundance of community members chipping in on testing.

The perception of inferior security may have more to do with regular patch sets that come out of Microsoft and Oracle nowadays, Kaplan said, as opposed to open source, where release dates seem more haphazard—if users even understand how the release schedule works in the first place.

The IOUG also found that enterprises dont tend to tinker with open-source code. Only 19 percent of respondents said that developers have modified source code, and most—17 percent—said that the changes made were few in number.

Rather than freedom to tinker, the driving force for getting open source into the enterprise continues to be its low or nonexistent price, the IOUG found.

A majority of respondents—57 percent—reported that cost savings is the biggest motivator for choosing open-source software. An additional 24 percent cite the flexible licensing options as a driver of adoption.

Twenty-two percent said easier maintenance was the draw, and 22 percent said that better performance and uptime was key.

As far as open-source databases go, a majority of respondents, 53 percent, said they dont or wont use them.

For the 37 percent of Oracle users who reported that theyre OK with open-source databases, most are bullish on MySQL, with 33 percent of respondents reporting MySQL adoption and 34 percent saying its planned for next year.

PostgreSQL came in at second place, with 9 percent reporting adoption and 11 percent planning it for 2007.

Ingres is in use at the sites of 3 percent of respondents, with 4 percent planning to plug it in 2007.

Firebird has been taken up by 2 percent of respondents, and another 2 percent plan to install it next year. Sleepycats Berkeley DB was used by 1 percent of respondents, with 3 percent planning its use next year.

Heres how those open-source databases are being used:

  • 37 percent for specific single-function systems
  • 32 percent for front-end, customer-facing Web sites
  • 32 percent in development
  • 32 percent for custom, home-grown applications
  • 27 percent for testing
  • 10 percent small-footprint/embedded devices
  • 10 percent for enterprise applications such as ERP
  • 9 percent to run transactional applications
  • 8 percent for caching for enterprise databases
  • 7 percent for data warehouses/business intelligence
  • 2 percent for "Other."

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