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Open Source Forges Ahead in the Enterprise - User Experiences
Friday, December 02 2005 @ 02:18 PM EST

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Open Source Software Special Interest Group held a meeting titled "Open Source and the Enterprise: Enterprise Adoption".

The meeting had two parts. The first part was a presentation by Nick Gall, Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, which you can read about on Paul Gillin's blog, Musings on Technology. Audio is not yet available, but Gillin reports that Gall said the following, among other things:

The takeaways I got ... is that open source software (OSS) has clearly turned the corner in the enterprise and is now seated at the table with the software elite....Gall sees the action shifting quickly from infrastructure markets where the LAMP stack is already well-established into applications. ...

Gall said, "By 2010, software companies that donít incorporate OSS into offered solutions risk becoming uncompetitive due to the cost of in-house engineering." Wow. Talk about making it to the big leagues.

The business model for open-source vendors certainly is different. These companies spend less on development because much of that work is done in the community. They also spend less on distribution, since trial downloads are the way the software spreads. These companies have a leaner business model and, at least for now, get closer to their customers, according to the two Fidelity speakers at the event. Those speakers -- Mike Askew and Charles Pickelhaupt -- agreed that open-source suppliers tend to be more accommodating of their needs and more responsive to their requests.

The Gartner audio should be available next week from Dan Bricklin, who led the meetings and made the recordings. It includes some discussion about the GPL and what enterprise needs from the new version being worked on now.

The second part (for which a recording is available) consisted of two presentations by large IT users, followed by a discussion. The first presenter was Julie Atkins, Director of IT Operations and Info Security from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The second presentation, which took up most of the time, was by Michael Askew and Charles Pickelhaupt of Fidelity Investments' Center for Applied Technology.

They talked about Fidelity's history with Open Source. Gillin again reports:

Fidelity has an open mind about all things open source but does put candidates through the wringer. Open-source alternatives to existing applications must demonstrate comparable functionality and go before a review board that sets standards for certification, support and maintenance.

Though open source is an exciting new opportunity, the wild-west nature of the market is still an irritation to some users. Fidelity VP Charles Pickelhaupt noted that his firm has counted 58 different variations of open-source licenses. And code revision cycles that can lead to daily builds can make version control a chore. Nevertheless, Fidelity is charging ahead. Not only is OSS comparable to proprietary alternatives in most cases, "Many people think it's superior," he said

I hope that motivates you to help reduce the number of FOSS licenses, particularly if you want your work to be used in the enterprise.

The Fidelity people talk about why they use Open Source, why they like it sometimes more than similar products that are proprietary (it's not because of the lower up-front cost), and how they determine what to let in, how they do training, etc. This presentation will be of interest to anyone using or considering using Open Source in their company. There were lots of questions from the attendees, many of whom are lawyers and consultants.

To listen to the hour-long recording, you can find a link on the OSS SIG's wiki page about it or on Dan Bricklin's blog.

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