Expect more open source enterprise apps this year: analysts

Areas such as CRM, where proprietary software still dominates, will see open source options gain prominence, some predict. Jennifer Mears reports

Open source Could be on the short-list when it comes to application-buying decisions in 2007.

While open source applications for collaboration, content management and CRM may not have reached the maturity level of Linux or the Apache web server, they’re getting there.

“Open source has won the first battle: it is now listed among the default platform decisions,” says Dave Jenkins, chief technology officer at US online outdoor sporting goods retailer Backcountry.com. The next step, open source users agree, is moving up the stack and figuring out which open source tools are ready for enterprise deployments.

“Infrastructure open source products are essentially a no-brainer at this point, but the adoption of enterprise applications has been slow,” says Curtis Edge, CIO at The Christian Science Monitor, which revamped its websites with open source software last year.

Edge traces the lag in adoption to the fact that ICT decision makers often don’t factor open source into their software-buying discussions, because they’re uncertain about newer open source tools.

But Edge continues to expand the open source products on his radar. “There are a lot of new commercial open source products, and many more to come [this] year,” he says. “SugarCRM, Alfresco and EnterpriseDB lead my list of commercial open source products that are — or will be — ready for prime time in the next six to 12 months. I am sure there are many more.”

Organisations should expect more open source options in 2007 as venture capitalists continue to put money into companies who provide support for open source tools. Digium, the commercial entity that supports the Asterisk open source IP PBX, got a US$13.8 million (NZ$20 million) boost from venture capitalists last year, for example.

“The next area for a lot of activity seems to be around IT management and monitoring, virtualisation management, systems management,” says Raven Zachary, an analyst at The 451 Group. “There are a lot of start-ups right now that have got funding.”

Jim Klein, director of information services and technology for the Saugus Union School District in California, says he expects a significant rise in the number of commercial open source offerings this year and in the number of enterprises latching on to these products.

“The case can be made that Linux on the desktop may actually come of age this year... [And I] expect some significant corporate moves to solutions such as Zimbra [open source collaboration and messaging software] from Exchange,” Klein says.

Where things stand

Open source is going mainstream, but not all open source tools are equal. Here’s a look at how enterprise-ready some free software products are:

• Most mature: development tools (Eclipse, Hibernate, Struts) and server operating systems (Linux, FreeBSD)

• Maturing: application servers (JBoss, Geronimo) and security software (Snort, Nessus)

• Growing: collaboration (Zope, Drupal), content management (Alfresco, OpenCms) and directory services (OpenLDAP)

• Emerging: databases (MySQL, Ingres), enterprise applications (SugarCRM, Compiere), portals (Jetspeed, Zope), search engines (Apache Lucene, ht://Dig) and virtualisation software (Xen)

• Embryonic: integration services (openadaptor), enterprise service buses (Open ESB, Mule) and process management applications (OpenFlow)

With more options, corporate users should find making the case for open source gets easier in 2007, analysts say. More deployments should be mature enough to point to as real-world examples, and customers should find increasing support from both open source companies and proprietary vendors.

In addition, users should look for new delivery models from such vendors as SpikeSource and OpenLogic, which provide pre-integrated software stacks with open source components and open source software delivered as a service.

“It’s still the case that people who suggest open source are the lone voices in many organisations,” says Nikos Drakos, research director at Gartner.

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