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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Open source is also now mainstream, with people no longer using Linux and open-source software on the fringe, but for real applications, Driver said. He noted that the percentage of open-source software deployed across both non-mission-critical and mission-critical instances nearly equaled the deployment split between proprietary software and that developed internally.
With regard to the future, Driver said there would be a number of changing adoption patterns through 2012, by which time the primary adoption drivers would become cost and risk, with flexibility and independence being secondary, whereas the reverse has been the case for open-source adoption in 2007.
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He also suggested that the open-source software community would expand and divide, and there were two possible scenarios for how this would play out by 2011: Community goals could remain close enough that a single model was retained, or the goals would diverge, resulting in two models emerging with minimum overlap.
“Which way it will go, I do not know. There will be change, which has already happened and continues to take place, but the end result of all that change is not clear as yet,” Driver said.
With regard to why a company like IBM, which has poured billions of dollars into the development of its own Unix-based AIX operating system, loved Linux, Driver said the primary reason was that it hurt two of its largest competitors: Sun and Microsoft. “While Sun has changed its direction and focus of late, IBM likes Linux these days because it hurts Microsoft,” he said.
Open source would also affect every software market rather than just creating its own, Driver said, adding that a new type of software was emerging, known as “gated-source” software, which was neither purely open source nor proprietary.
He also said there are four factors that should drive customer open-source software decisions: whether it does what they need it to, whether the project is mature enough to provide an acceptable risk/reward strategy, what the users technology adoption profile is, and how the open product will be deployed, he said.
In conclusion, Driver said the pendulum was shifting, with users getting more leverage. “You need to establish a criteria for evaluating open-source software products as well as procedures to adopt and maintain them. Open source is not a niche play or a fad; it is in the mainstream and here to stay,” he said.
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