Most businesses that embrace open source are content to consume products rather than giving code back to the community, according to Forrester Research.
At its symposium in Lisbon last month, Forrester talked to application development and enterprise architecture professionals from European firms that are actively using open source.
It found that for most of the organisations it questioned, "open source adoption initially focused on the operating system and web server tiers of the application platform stack, but early success widened the focus to include development tools, infrastructure components such as application servers and databases, and higher-level components such as portal servers and content management systems".
Lower cost was the main driver for open source deployments, with delegates questioned by Forrester highlighting that the cost-based business case was easier to show for lower-level commodity middleware components.
"One participant mentioned that his organisation saved €900,000 (NZ$2,300) over three years by replacing a commercial application server with JBoss. And the enterprise architect from the firm that replaced multiple Unix systems with a single Linux distribution noted that this change cut administration costs by half," the report says.
Forrester also found that open source adoption on the desktop is a goal for some, but highlighted one enterprise architect from a large IT shop which was trying to deliver a full stack of open source software to user desktops.
"The program's progress been slow, though; migrating users and installations from existing Microsoft productivity tools to open source alternatives has proved a significant challenge," the report says.
The biggest concern over open source adoption among European organisations was support. Open source adopters at the Forrester forum said they were happy to pay for support, if they could measure its worth.
One said, "We've been paying a third party for support, but after a year, we're not sure of the value. We'd like to avoid the costs of self-support, but we also don't want to throw money away."
For Forrester, this puts pressure on open source suppliers such as Red Hat and Sun. "These companies can't compel annual maintenance fees through upgrade rights, so they will need to demonstrate superior value through excellent service, or IT shops will look to internal support or third parties instead," it says.
Intellectual property issues and security were less important than support. "None of the discussion participants indicated that security of open source or legal issues concern them — even when probed for a response," according to Forrester.