Interoperability Still Stumbling Block for Open Source in 2008

Enterprise customers want open-source solutions to continue to work together over update cycles.

Enterprise customers are using open-source software more and more, but issues of interoperability are still a stumbling block to widespread adoption, say customers and open-source software vendors.

Enterprise customers need assurance that open-source solutions will continue to work together over update cycles before they will expand the adoption of open-source components across their IT environments, said Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource.

"There is generally a lack of certifiable quality when it comes to solutions that build on multiple open-source components, where a change in one underlying component can break the entire solution," Polese said. "As long as this remains a concern for enterprises, open-source vendors will not realize the rates of adoption they are hoping for, and adoption beyond the enterprise into SMB [small and midsize business] customers will also be limited."

SpikeSource is focused on addressing the interoperability issue through its automated testing and certification framework, as it believes that solving the quality assurance and interoperability challenges presented by the proliferation of open-source projects and components will dramatically accelerate open-source adoption both in the enterprise and among SMBs, she said.

Poleses comments are consistent with those of a recent report from the Open Solutions Alliance, which said that while commercial open-source solutions are being broadly adopted, there are obstacles slowing that adoption, particularly around interoperability.

Read more here about how interoperability issues are hampering open-source adoption.

One of the big challenges in 2008 for John Roberts, CEO and co-founder of SugarCRM, is to continue to distinguish between the open-source and proprietary value propositions.

"There is a significant difference in quality, flexibility, control and cost—each of which favors the commercial open-source model," Roberts told eWEEK. "As more and more companies consider open-source solutions in their evaluations, we need to make sure the differences are explained clearly."

Old software model is "broken"

But 2007 was a good year for open source, bringing increased adoption across markets and industries, with commercial open-source companies continuing their rapid growth in enterprise software markets, Roberts said.

"We also saw increased adoption in other areas, such as Googles Android open source initiative in the mobile market, and the OpenSocial API for social networking," he said. "All these achievements are driven by a realization that the traditional, proprietary software development model is broken. Customers, and thus companies, are demanding more openness."

The ratification and adoption of Version 3 of the GNU GPL (General Public License) was another 2007 milestone, and brought greater flexibility and interoperability to developers and users when using free and open-source software, Roberts said.

Click here to read more about GPL Version 3.

Todd Hay, a vice president at WaveMaker Software, formerly known as ActiveGrid, which enables the visual assembly and rapid deployment of Web 2.0 applications that meet enterprise IT requirements, said enterprise adoption of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and Web 2.0 technologies will become a driving force in 2008.

"With more and more applications today becoming Web-based, Web 2.0 has elevated the expectations of user interface for those applications," Hay said. "Thus, enterprise IT teams will demand tools that enable applications to be built and deployed quickly and easily in a user-friendly AJAX environment. We also anticipate the growing acceptance and adoption of applications that are Web Fast and CIO Safe—two requirements for the adoption of Web 2.0 in the enterprise."

Rogues grow

Hay said he also expects the use of so-called "rogue" technologies, which are uncontrolled applications installed by end users to compensate for the shortcomings of overtaxed IT departments, to increase this year.

"As these rogue technologies gain traction inside the enterprise, look to organizations to increase their application migration and modernization budgets," Hay said.

Bertrand Diard, CEO and co-founder of Talend, an open-source data integration company, said he believes that the biggest driving force shaping the market in 2008 will be mergers and acquisitions.

Merger fever is heating back up. Click here to read more.

Diard said he expects Oracle, IBM, SAP, Hewlett-Packard and others to continue snapping up proprietary vendors in the business intelligence, application servers, CRM (customer relationship management) and data integration sectors, while SAPs acquisition of Business Objects and Oracles courtship of BEA, among other possible future deals, will further reduce the number of proprietary solutions on the market.

"This will continue the trend of these vendors building mega-suites of proprietary software targeted at large organizations, while developing software-as-a-service solutions for the SMB market," Diard said. "On the technical side, they will be attempting to integrate mature products that involve a decade or more of complex software code, not to mention difficult customer support issues around end-of-life scenarios."

But customer choice will not be significantly affected, as the continued success and maturation of open-source solutions and projects in those markets will help drive these mergers and acquisitions, he said.

"The major question, he said, will be "which suite vendors embrace open source as part of the solution and which continue to push proprietary mega-suites as their flagship solution."


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