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Growing Faith in Open Source, But Few Give Back

08.16.2010
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The days of enterprises fearing what they don't have to pay for are coming to an end.  Two recent surveys on open source adoption show that open source solutions are trusted and utilized by a large number of enterprises.  One survey found that a majority of its respondents used OSS in some form, while the other indicates that many enterprises are choosing open source because of the quality, not just the low (or non-existent) costs.

The first survey was conducted by Zenoss, a corporate sponsor of an open source cloud networking / management project called Zenoss Core.  Project community members and attendees at the USENIX Large Installation System Administration conference took the survey, and in total there were nearly 1,000 who completed it.  The second survey is from Accenture, a consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company.  They polled 300 large organizations in both the private and public sector.

Here are some points of interest from the Zenoss survey:

  • 98% of respondents used OSS in some form
  • The average rating of their satisfaction with open source was between 7 and 8 on a scale of 1 to 10
  • 73% chose open source because of its flexibility
  • 71% chose open source because of lower costs
  • 34% didn't choose an open source solution because of poor documentation
  • 27% didn't choose an open source solution because of the lack of support
  • 76% of sys-admins said they prefer to use OSS wherever possible
  • Last year's survey had 71% of respondents saying that OSS was easier to deploy than proprietary.  That's up from 48% in 2008, 38% in 2007, and 26% in 2006

The 98% is a bit skewed because we don't know how many of the respondents came from the Zenoss Core pool, which obviously were all open source users.  It does tell us that poor documentation is the most common failing in the open source community.  What's also interesting is the fact that lower cost wasn't the the most common reason for choosing open source (although it very nearly is).  Instead, open source is holding its own against proprietary because of the flexibility and other advantages offered.

Here are some points of interest from the Accenture survey:

  • 69% of the organizations surveyed anticipate increased investment in open source
  • 28% expect to migrate mission critical applications to open source in the next year
  • 50% of respondents were fully committed to OSS while 28% are still experimenting
  • 50% cited cost savings as a reason for adopting open source
  • 76% cited quality as a reason for adopting OSS, 71% cited reliability, and 70% cited better security and bug fixing.  
  • Surprisingly, less than a third of the companies (29%) were willing to contribute their developments back to the open source community
  • The biggest hinderance to open source was the training required to use it (mentioned by 35% of organizations)

I found the last point very surprising.  This is a serious shortcoming in the open source ecosystem that needs to be corrected.  It doesn't seem fair for 71% of the companies to take, take, take and then given nothing back to the community that helped make the software in the first place.  However, the OSS adoption numbers are encouraging.  What's even more encouraging is that both surveys show that price is no longer the primary motivation behind OSS adoption - people are using open source because it's better.