Commercial Software Will Include Open Source, Gartner Says

IT organizations will have to manage open-source software along with commercial software, Gartner says.

LAS VEGAS—At least 80 percent of all commercial software products will include elements of open-source code by 2010, according to Mark Driver, vice president of research at Gartner.

In his opening keynote at the third annual Gartner Open Source Summit here Sept. 19, titled "The Gartner Open Source Scenario for 2007: The risks and rewards for mainstream IT," Driver said the research firm believes "open source is defined by the license, period. Almost all of our customers are scrambling to create an open-source policy, as almost none of them have one as yet."

The days of "skunk works," or secret open-source software adoptions, are over, and open-source software now has to be managed in tandem with existing enterprise software asset management strategies, he said.

"It also changes the rules of the game, but does not introduce an entirely new game. Corporate rules of engagement policy needs to be established for open-source software, which clearly cannot be ignored anymore," Driver said.


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According to Driver, open-source software is now in its third wave, which is a phase of leverage as it is really good enough to use, provides alternatives throughout the stack, and is becoming far more pragmatic than idealistic. "Open source is not being hijacked; it is evolving along with the rest of the software industry," he said.

This leveraged third phase followed the first wave, which revolved around emotion, interest and indifference, and the second phase, which was one of realism, he said.

Driver also addressed the controversial issue of fragmentation head-on, saying that it was not a bad thing or a weakness of open source, but rather one of its brutal realities. The biology of open source is that of natural selection, where weaker competing variations are weeded out, while specialization is encouraged so that variations can co-exist, he said.

"Fragmentation, or the threat of fragmentation, is a feature of open source, not a threat. It keeps the industry competitive, as vendors know that if they screw up and do not meet the needs of their users, they will be weeded out and replaced," he said.


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Open source also does not guarantee a higher quality of code or better total cost of ownership than proprietary or internally developed software, Driver said. "If you think it will, you will be sorely disappointed, as that is not always the case. Some open software is better, and some is not," he said.

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