Open source investment to increase – survey

12 Oct 2010

Has open source reached a tipping point? A new survey has found many organisations are planning to invest more in it, as more perceived benefits are understood beyond the obvious cost advantage over proprietary software.

Accenture’s survey of 300 large organisations in the private and public sector across the US, UK and Ireland has found many committing to clear strategies and policies for open source software (OSS) development.

More than two-thirds of organisations (69pc) anticipate increased investment, with more than a third (38pc) expecting to migrate mission-critical applications to OSS in the next 12 months.

Exactly half of the respondents are fully committed to OSS in their business while just more than a quarter (28pc) said they are experimenting with it and keeping an open mind to using it. Some 65pc of those polled said they have a fully documented strategic approach for using OSS in their business, while another third (32pc) are developing a strategic plan.

Of those organisations using open source, a massive 88pc said they will increase their investment in the software this year compared to 2009. The overall volume of open source software development is forecast to rise over the next three years to 27pc, up from 20pc in 2009. 

There were some geographical divergences in the findings: nearly twice as many US companies as UK and Irish firms expect their level of OSS investment to increase in 2010 (85pc compared to 56pc). However, more organisations in Ireland and the UK expect their investment to increase greatly (21pc to 11pc). In addition, Irish and UK firms believe more that OSS offers a better chance than proprietary software of helping them to achieve competitive advantage.

The cost question has never been too far away from the open source debate but it’s now no longer the primary advantage for using OSS. Just more than three-quarters of respondents (76pc) said quality was a key benefit, with 71pc saying its reliability has improved. Almost as many (70pc) cited better security and bug fixing as advantages.

Open source and cost savings

Although cost savings are not the main reason for using open source, half of the respondents (50pc) said it was a factor in overall lower total cost of ownership. Asked about the greatest cost savings in open source, most believe they can be made on software maintenance costs (71pc), initial software development time (33pc) and initial development costs (33pc).

“What we are seeing is the coming of age of open source,” commented Hilary O’Meara, senior executive and head of technology for Accenture Ireland. “Through both our research and our work with clients, we are seeing an increase in demand for open source based on quality, reliability and speed, not just cost savings. This is a significant change from just two years ago when uptake was driven mainly by cost savings. We can expect to see this trend develop as open source continues to evolve and address even more business-critical functions.”

Another finding of note is that just 29pc of organisations surveyed said they are willing to contribute their own open source applications back to the community – which is the point of open source movement whereby developments are shared so that others can give feedback and improve them.

The figures also show a significant number of organisations not yet prepared to take the plunge. Just more than one-third (35pc) said the biggest obstacle was in training developers how to use open source. A lack of senior management support for any OS initiatives was also given as a challenge, and another was the insufficient OS alternatives compared to proprietary software suites.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic