Gartner: Open Source Becoming Pervasive Yet Lacking Governance

Nov 19, 2008

Market research firm Gartner discovered that most of the almost 300 organizations it surveyed employed Open Source software in one way or another, but that a general license enforcement policy was missing.

The biggest challenge for the open source organizations surveyed proved to be software governance and license policies, according to the Connecticut market research firm's study over May and June of 2008. The second place challenge was that Open Source software (OSS) companies have trouble with contradictory terms of use. Those surveyed also pointed to the countless licensing required.

Gartner's results show that around four-fifths of the 274 end-user organizations use OSS in their projects. Only about a third of them have a "formal policy for evaluating and cataloguing OSS usage in their enterprise, opening up huge potential liabilities for intellectual-property violations." "Just because something is free doesn't mean that it has no cost," says Gartner's research director Laurie Wurster in their press release. In her view each organization should have a policy about OSS so that it can control which of its applications and projects should use it and assess the consequences thereof.

Gartner found that total cost of ownership (TCO) was the main reason why organizations choose OSS and replace commercial solutions with it. Close behind was the ability to engage more easily in new IT projects and software initiatives. According to the study, OSS also frees organizations from dependence on single vendors. Finally, OSS allows them to "avoid complex procurement rules and procedures" so as to respond to user needs more quickly.

The survey spanned eight countries in North America, Europe and Asia, targeting end-users but excluding software vendors and external software providers. Respondents came from the manufacturing, education, financial and service sectors, from small, medium and large organizations.

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