New Zealand and Australia are lagging behind Europe and North America in the adoption of open source software (OSS), according to a report from research firm Forrester. However, local OSS experts believe Forrester’s figures understate the true picture.
Analyst Sam Higgins says the low adoption rate — one-third the rate of North America — is because OSS is caught between two worlds. He says customers have been conditioned to buy software from vendors and their approved partners.
“It comes down to confusion born from being drip-fed that model for so long and the networked world of open source. That’s not helped by vendors that shrink-wrap open source software, it just keeps people addicted to the model that takes away all the risk,” he says.
The report shows that 50% of organisations using OSS are paying for support and cites that as one of the main challenges for implementation.
For a change to happen, says Higgins, the market has to move to a duopoly of traditional and open source models, contribute to the open source ecosystem and establish policies beyond procurement.
“Forrester sees a big obsession with procurement policy. Many organisations don’t have a policy after software has been downloaded.”
As Higgins points out there is even confusion over the definition of OSS which, he says, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
“It’s completely open to interpretation and in that respect is similar to service-orientated architecture.”
So why all the hype around open source?
“It’s a bit like teenagers talking about sex — everyone is curious but they aren’t all doing it. The interest in it means that at least people are considering it.”
But local players believe more organisations are using OSS than statistics show.
Chris Phillips, ANZ Linux virtualisation services manager at IBM, believes OSS usage is higher than the 16% cited in the Forrester report.
“Some customers say they don’t have any Linux when in fact they do. IBM has been forecasting double-digit growth for the last few years and has seen it happen,” he says.
Phillips adds that while the region may have a slower Linux uptake it has some of the leading Linux specialists in the world.
He says there is confusion between Linux as OSS and Linux as an operating system.
“Some of the statistics are deceiving. There’s more going than what is being let out.”
Adding to that confusion is the amount of misinformation being fed into the market, he says.
“There is a lot of job protection going on out there. Traditional vendors see OSS as a real threat.”
A big stumbling block to adoption, in Phillips’s opinion, is the lack of active marketing to sell the benefits of OSS.
“Most CIOs and CEOs know a little bit but the leading vendors haven’t launched great marketing pushes.”
He says resellers are missing out on a huge opportunity by sticking with the traditional software model.
“A lot of legacy infrastructure is coming up for renewal. Virtualisation can reduce the amount of hardware needed and remove the need for multiple Microsoft licences.”
Jim A’Hara, Open Systems Specialists director, says the prevalence of OSS is extremely high. “I’m sure there is some variation in the reporting on its use. Many people wouldn’t realise Apache or even Firefox are open source,” he says.
He isn’t surprised the OSS movement has more traction in the mature European and North American markets but believes things are changing in New Zealand with a number of high-profile government deals being signed.
“It’s being driven by what others are doing and, let’s not forget, the days of companies with extremely large IT budgets are over. That’s where OSS can make an impact because of the low cost of entry.”
A’Hara does emphasise OSS should not be seen as an end to itself. He says his company began seriously focusing on the OSS space four years ago.
“It coincided with the time companies such as Red Hat changed the support models. Lack of support is one of the biggest barriers to adoption.”
In a bold move, IT services company Unisys predicts the OSS market will continue to evolve this year, even going out on a limb to suggest it will have the same impact as the internet did a decade ago.
Mike Dooner, director programmes and alliances Unisys ANZ, says the fundamental principles of OSS protect the rights of the end- user rather than software developers.