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Local CIOs see open source as strategic, still lack policy

Local CIOs see open source as strategic, still lack policy

Open source has greater value than just getting something for free

A recent global survey by analyst firm Gartner has found more than half of organisations have adopted open source software (OSS) solutions as part of their IT strategy, but only 30 per cent of CIOs have a formal policy in place.

Some 40 IT leaders and CIOs in Australia, out of a total of 547 globally, were surveyed by Gartner on their use of open source software.

Gartner concluded organisations are increasingly looking to open source to provide competitive advantage.

Nearly one-third of respondents cited the benefits of flexibility, increased innovation, shorter development times and faster procurement processes as reasons for adopting OSS.

Establishing a set of integrated, open source 'tactics' that is eventually woven into existing operational models

The survey was conducted across 11 countries from July 2010 until August 2010 to determine current and future OSS adoption and usage habits.

Respondents came from organisations with at least 100 employees and were involved in the budget decisions, planning, implementation or implementation support with regard to the use of OSS.

Sydney-based CIO Alex Ristancevski said in his experience most organisations would not have a formal OSS policy.

“In the environments I have worked in it’s been a rather slow adoption,” he said, adding most activity is in application development.

“I agree with the cited benefits of open source, but the machinations behind an organisation may lead to not wanting to take up open source for fear of the unknown.”

“The Job of the CIO is to manage change and the organisations I’ve dealt with required fundamental change, before it could go to open source.”

Gartner research director Laurie Wurster said gaining a competitive advantage has emerged as a reason for OSS adoption.

“If they can customise the code to make it unique to their company, they have created a competitive advantage," Wurster said.

“With greater in-depth understanding and access to the necessary skill sets, end-user organisations will continue to find new deployment of OSS.”

Although cost reduction continues to be a driver, Wurster says this survey revealed more respondents are looking at open source as having greater value than “simply getting something for free”.

Ristancevski agrees with the survey’s evaluations relating to open source drivers, and “finance reasons would be at the forefront”, but says cost savings need to be balanced with the “next hurdle” of the training required, depending on the extent of delivery.

The survey indicated that just over one in every five responding organisations (22 per cent) was adopting OSS consistently in all departments of the company, however, 46 per cent of respondents used OSS in specific departments and projects.

In addition, 21 per cent of respondents revealed that they were in the process of evaluating the advantages of open source. The top company-wide open source initiatives are:

  • Data management and integration
  • Application development, integration, architecture, governance and/or overhaul
  • Business process improvement or re-engineering
  • Security, risk and/or compliance
  • Data center modernisation and consolidation; and virtualisation.

Bob Igou, research director at Gartner, said based on the results, OSS components and building blocks are used together with internally developed software to augment and enhance existing systems through integration and automation, as well as to improve business efficiencies and security.

Over the past five years, each Gartner survey has revealed an increase in the amount of open source that makes up an organisations' software portfolio – from less than 10 per cent to “an expected 30 percent” within the next 18 months.

On the contrary, during the same period the rate of proprietary software has decreased at about the same rate as OSS usage has increased.

Gartner puts this down to an increase in software developed for internal purposes rather than a complete replacement for proprietary software.

Local analyst recommends learn-as-you-go

Sydney-based vice president for Gartner’s application strategy and governance team, Brian Prentice, says there is no clear set of governance model on how catalyze, work with or sustain an open-source community.

Prentice, who tracks OSS use among local enterprises, says open source strategies are still a work in progress for the industry.

Enterprise IT organisations will need to learn “on the fly”, he says and this is best accomplished by taking a pragmatic, phased approach to establishing a set of integrated, open source “tactics” that is eventually woven into existing operational models. Prentice recommends the phases include:

  • Phase 1: Begin participating in an existing open-source project. Understand the dynamics, and what works and what doesn't.
  • Phase 2: Initiate your own open source project. Try and understand not only who is participating in the community, but why.
  • Phase 3: Work with legal counsel to come up with an integrated open source licensing model. This is not the same as an approved license list for acquired open source projects. This is about understanding how certain license conditions can guide the behaviour of a community, and when different types of licenses should be applied based on the strategic objectives.
  • Phase 4: Seek to engage enterprise architects into the process of determining when and why open source projects should be initiated or participated in.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

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