Three surveys (  [3,4]] ) have been rattling around my almost empty pre-christmas inbox this week which give us some useful insight into how open source is being adopted; what drives adoption and what inhibits it. Reading across the surveys – I come up with the following observations and few surprises :
- Open Source is mainstream and it’s being used extensively to support customer facing, business and mission critical functions.
- Reduced TCO and no up-front license cost are still the major drivers for open source adoption but they’re closely followed by - vendor independence (and specifically MS independence), Quality, Innovation and Convenience / Flexibility. Or as Forrester  put it “OSS isn’t just cheap – it’s good and cheap”.
- The main inhibitors to adoption – ‘security’ and ‘lack of support’ and risk of patent / copyright infringement seem to be much less of a concern than a year ago. The suggestion seems to be that these risks are offset by working with commercial open source vendors or experienced System Integrators.
- The rate of Open Source adoption differs between categories of software – Application Development, Server OSes, Databases and Middleware have high adoption whereas Reporting / BI, SOA, Desktop and Security – adoption is much lower but adoption is moving rapidly up the stack.
- North America and Canada are still behind Europe (excluding the UK) in adopting OSS; adoption is higher in larger organizations; and different industries are adopting OSS at different rates for different areas in the stack.
- Technology isn’t the only thing being adopted – principles and governance of open source is also being adopted in IT and development organizations. This is something I’ve already witnessed a few times.
OK, a little bit more detail from each of the reports.
The first report was prepared for Bull by Forrester , and specifically focusses on European and North American companies who have already adopted OSS. I especially like the following, so forgive the repetition :
OSS isn’t just cheap — it’s good and cheap. Only a minority of respondents said that OSS hasn’t met their quality expectations. A vast majority (i.e., 92%) said that their quality expectations have been met or even exceeded. The satisfaction regarding cost was on a similar level at 87%.”
The second report is Actuate’s annual Open Source survey 
I’ve only read the North American report and a I presume there’s more detail specific to France, UK and Germany. The report drills down into established open source technologies – Linux, Eclipse, Tomcat and JBoss and it’s nice to see JBoss included along with other Open Source mega-brands like Apache, Linux, MySQL and Eclipse . JBoss adoption in North America is 14.7% and Germany 22.1% but in France it’s much lower at only 5.7% – while other technologies remain pretty constant. Any thoughts as to why JBoss adoption is so much lower in France or whether this is a bug in the survey ?
The third and fourth tomes are from IDC [3,4] The first part outlines the key drivers and inhibitors to the adoption of Open Source. The second part has some very nice detail on how open source technology is ‘acquired’ and how it’s supported and serviced. It demonstrates how a tiny little company called Red Hat has managed to compete with and in many cases lead some much more established (ie. older) and significantly larger companies in the distribution and support of Open Source technology. That said – you can’t help but accept that without huge companies like IBM, Oracle and HP – distributing and supporing Open Source technology – it wouldn’t be as successful or as established as it is today.
As I keep saying – money makes the world go round and that’s true for the world of Open Source too.