40pc of Irish firms to use open source this year


13 Jan 2006

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More than two out of five Irish organisations will use some form of open source software (OSS) in 2006, a report claims.

According to estimates from the Dublin-based technology research firm iReach, more than 40pc of Irish organisations across a range of industry sectors will implement OSS in their business this year.

Ireach estimates that sectors such as telecoms and technology have traditionally been more receptive to OS but, based on recent survey findings, other sectors such as financial services will commit more to the concept this year. IReach said that OS is now considered more secure than before and there are customisable options available.

“There’s an overall interest in OS increasing; IT managers are taking it more seriously in terms of delivering business value,” said iReach managing director Oisín Byrne. “Increasingly more IT decision makers are seeing OS becoming a mainstream commercial application; it’s not just being seen as a techie solution.”

He cited AIB’s decision last year to use OSS in its branch network to illustrate this point. “That’s a great example of a commercially astute business looking at OS for benefits such as lower total cost of ownership and more scalability,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

Byrne pointed out that Irish companies are implementing OSS alongside their existing IT investments. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, however, it is not being seen as an all-or-nothing alternative to proprietary software from suppliers such as Microsoft. “It’s not a religious war,” he said. “Our research isn’t necessarily saying that a company is going to throw out its Microsoft on Intel servers in favour of OS. People are dropping in OS where it fits.”

According to iReach, the growing popularity of OSS will also lead to an increase in demand for engineers and support staff with the appropriate skills. Byrne said this would have ramifications for IT training providers and consultants who may have experience of OSS but who may not be certified as such. “There’s no doubt that the skills are out there but people need to consider formal accreditation, which is there in other development environments,” he said.

In other findings, iReach has forecast “modest” growth of just 2.5pc in Irish server sales this year, to reach a value of €122m across all vertical industry sectors. Investment will be led by the government sector, partly driven by decentralisation in addition to ongoing IT investment in healthcare. Financial services and manufacturing will spend less on servers this year, however, due to a combination of utility computing and virtualisation technology.

The iReach findings suggest that Ireland doesn’t lag too far behind its European counterparts in adopting OS. Data from Forrester Research released in December found that almost 40pc of European firms already use some type of OSS. A further 8pc of companies said they plan to implement it in pilot form at some stage this year. The main benefit of the technology, as cited in the Forrester survey, is cost: both total cost of ownership and lower cost of acquisition than commercial software.

By Gordon Smith