Gartner: non-US groups seek alternative to MS

By David Legard

IDG News Service

Governments and businesses outside the U.S. are leading the push to find alternatives to Microsoft Corp. for their software needs, according to a report released Tuesday by research company Gartner Inc.

The reasons for seeking an alternative include concern over licensing issues, security breaches and the grass-roots power of open-source software, according to Gartner.

In Asia-Pacific, governments in China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia are encouraging government departments and businesses to replace Microsoft products with a combination of Linux, other open-source products and software from local vendors.

Several governments in Europe and Latin America have followed suit, looking for ways to avoid exporting increasing amounts of their gross domestic product to a U.S.-based company, Gartner said.

“Governments and businesses, especially outside the United States, are increasingly interested in pursuing strategies that insulate them from Microsoft’s growing influence on the IT industry, even if alternate solutions aren’t exactly a perfect fit,” Gartner wrote in the report.

Many large businesses in those regions have implemented Linux for similar reasons to those cited by government departments.

In North America, concern about Microsoft’s strength is less pronounced, and concentrates instead on enabling Microsoft’s rivals to exist in an “ecosystem” dominated by the Seattle company.

The most popular alternatives to Microsoft are Linux and other open-source software products such as the Apache Web server. Benefits perceived by users of using open-source software includes lower or free initial costs, freedom from vendor lock-in, better security and the potential to help drive local IT economies, Gartner said.

The main difficulty lies in integrating different pieces of open-source software to provide maximum benefit from IT investments, according to Gartner

“Businesses that choose Linux and open-source integration over Microsoft solutions will need new processes in the overall development, deployment, maintenance and support of their IT infrastructures,” Gartner wrote. “A disciplined and carefully considered best-practices process is essential to delivering maximum returns and benefits from Linux and open-source applications. Without it, the investments could lead to higher, unanticipated costs.”