A global survey of open-source enterprise users of Alfresco software has found that deployments of Red Hat Linux have grown twice as fast as those for Novell SUSE Linux since Novell signed its controversial patent and interoperability agreement with Microsoft in November 2006.
Alfresco Software, an open-source enterprise content management provider, surveyed more than 10,000 of its community members between March and June, and will release the findings July 23 in a report titled “The Alfresco Open Source Barometer.”
An executive summary and complete survey results are available here.
“What weve seen is that Alfrescos content community is growing in a true hockey stick fashion, with the ratio of new members each month exceeding that of the previous month,” said Ian Howells, Alfrescos chief marketing officer, who conducted the survey and analyzed the data.
“From March to May, for example, the rate of new members joining the Alfresco community rose by more than 130 percent month-on-month,” he said. “The number of those new users with Red Hat Linux nearly tripled over that period, while the number of Novell SUSE Linux users remained relatively static. This suggests that customers may increasingly not like the terms of the Microsoft-Novell deal, especially as more information becomes public.”
While Alfresco did not specifically ask community members the reason for their Linux choice, the findings are “not a coincidence and, while we cant be certain, customer unhappiness with the Novell-Microsoft deal is probably the most likely reason for that,” Howells said. “There was also a backlash against Microsoft about its patent position during this time.”
The surveys findings can also be extrapolated to the broader open-source software industry and are not limited to those enterprise customers using Alfresco software “because of the wide range of open-source and proprietary software use cases captured and the large sample size of the survey,” Howells said. “We think these findings accurately reflect the broad technology trends across modern stacks in organizations of all sizes.” Gallup polls about U.S. presidential candidates typically survey about 1,000 likely voters, while Alfresco surveyed more than 10,000 people, he said.
The report also shows that while Windows is an increasingly popular evaluation platform for open-source software, most enterprises use Linux when they go into production.
“Windows plays an increasingly important role in testing and evaluation because it is the operating system found on most desktops,” Howells said.
Since there is not a large sales force for open-source software in comparison to the larger proprietary software vendors, users need to be able to discover, try and buy the software without actually talking to the vendor, he said.
“So the first experience is phenomenally important, and the first experience for most users is going to be downloading the software onto their laptop and trying it out, which is why the Windows platform is very important. But the installation process and the ability to get users running and productive is equally important,” he said.
Alfresco has more than 300 paying customers globally, many of which are large, global 2000 organizations, including Electronic Arts, the European Commission, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Kaplan, NASA, Rayleys and several of the worlds largest financial services companies, Howells said.
The survey also found that the United States is leading the adoption of open source globally, which is being driven by corporate America, which wants better value. But the situation is different in Europe, where open-source adoption is largely being driven by governments looking for better value for their citizens, he said.
The research shows that this push is being driven by the French, Spanish, German and Italian governments, while the U.K. government came in sixth in the study.
“This suggests that the British government is not pushing open source and is far more Microsoft-centric. So this indicates that there is a big difference between the U.S. and Europe,” he said.
Howells noted that since the survey was driven by the enterprise and the findings were specific to those companies—both in the United States and Europe—it does not necessarily reflect what is going on elsewhere in the market.
“We live on top of the stack, and if you look at the LAMP [Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP] stack, there is a lot of activity on top of that with things like Alfresco and the CRM [customer relationship management] players. So we wanted to know what kind of mixed stack we needed to support as there are a lot of combinations there. We also knew that it wasnt just open-source stacks, as users could be running on Windows, Oracle, with JBoss and Alfresco,” he said.
Customers signing up to join the Alfresco Content Community were asked a series of questions about how they evaluated, tested and deployed both open-source and proprietary software along with Alfrescos enterprise content management system. They were also asked for their preferences regarding operating systems, application servers, databases, browsers and portals so as to gain insight into how these companies evaluate and deploy open-source and legacy proprietary software stacks in the enterprise.
“We found that there is a clear leader at each level of the open-source stack most of the time, but there is also a growing trend for organizations to adopt a mixed stack, combining both open-source and proprietary software to enable use of best-of-breed components,” Howells said, noting that organizations want to maintain flexibility within the stack.
Regarding application servers, the data indicated that enterprises prefer open-source Tomcat or JBoss over the leading proprietary offerings from Sun Microsystems, IBM and BEA Systems, even in production environments.
On the database front, users said they test and deploy primarily on MySQL, with PostgreSQL “a surprisingly close second,” while Oracle was the most popular among the proprietary databases.
“To access the Alfresco ECM repository, users preferred browsers over portals, with Firefox the most popular choice among different browsers. When users selected a portal preference, 80 percent chose Liferay or JBoss Portal,” Howells said.
New members are continuously joining the Alfresco community and answering the survey questions, so the company plans to update the open-source barometer report every six months, and Howells will blog about the updates on a regular basis.