Open source scaling app stack


The evangelism phase is over; analysts agree that open source no longer has to fight to be viewed as a sound option in corporate IT deployments. The next step, they say, is to widen open source’s footprint further into the corporate application stack.

While open source applications for collaboration, content management and customer relationship management (CRM) applications may not have reached the maturity level of Linux or the Apache Web server, they’re getting there. As a result, those tools are worth a look, even if it’s only a bargaining chip in negotiations with traditional software vendors.

“Open source has won the first battle. It is now listed among the default platform decisions,” said Dave Jenkins, CTO at online outdoor sporting goods retailer in Park City, Utah.

Gartner vice-president Tom Eid agreed that open source has reached the mainstream, particularly in infrastructure technologies.

These include database, application and Web servers and development tools. He said that’s because it was important to get the infrastructure layer in place first; now the applications will come on top.

“We’ll see it moving more now into the packaged applications area,” said Eid.

The consensus that open source hype has given way to reality is shared by David Senf, manager of Canadian application development and infrastructure software at IDC Canada in Toronto.

“The lunatic fringe…are now dwarfed in number by those in the mainstream who are starting to use open source increasingly and in different capacities than it has been in the past,” said Senf.

But sounding a cautionary note, Senf said that there is a set addressable market in Canada of companies that are willing to consider open source deployments, and while the data varies depending on the type of deployment, trends show the number of companies accepting open source is flat or declining.

While the addressable market for open source may have peaked, where there is opportunity for growth, said Senf, is within that addressable market as companies look to increase their deployments into new areas. The opportunity is to grow beyond infrastructure and up into the application stack.

“A very strong foundation has been built for the expansion of the footprint of open source, but not a lot of additional organizations are entering into the mix,” said Senf.

The next step, open source users agree, is moving up the stack and figuring out which open source tools are ready for enterprise deployments.

“Infrastructure open source products are essentially a no-brainer at this point, but the adoption of enterprise applications has been slow,” said Curtis Edge, CIO at The Christian Science Monitor, which revamped its Web sites with open source software last year.

Edge traced the lag in adoption to the fact that IT decision makers often don’t factor open source into their software-buying discussions, because they’re uncertain about newer open source tools.

Edge continues to expand the open source products on his radar. “There are a lot of new commercial open source products, and many more to come,” he said. “SugarCRM, Alfresco, EnterpriseDB lead my list of commercial open source products that are, or will be, ready for prime time in the next six to 12 months.”

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