Recession Buster: Open Source’s Moment

With a tough economy forcing organizations to look for ways to cut costs–and with many open source projects reaching a maturity level that IT executives are comfortable with–the technology might be on the verge of making serious inroads into corporate IT environments

Not that long ago, open source software was regarded by many technology leaders as something to be used in a limited, even experimental way. Even today, some CIOs are skeptical about open source as a viable option for enterprise applications or to support critical business functions.

But interest in open source software is high, according to industry research. A report released by Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner Inc. in November 2008 shows that the adoption of open source software is becoming pervasive. Of the 274 worldwide companies surveyed by Gartner, 85% said they were currently using open source in their enterprises and the remaining 15% said they expect to use it in the next 12 months. Only one-third of the 1,017 technology and business professionals surveyed by Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass., in December 2007 expressed no interest in open source products.

The sluggish economy might be helping to fuel growth. “Open source vendors are consistently reporting that deals and potential deals–sometimes large ones–that they thought were lost are coming back,” says Jay Lyman, an analyst at The 451 Group, an IT research firm in New York. “We think this highlights the increased interest in and use of open source software as a cost-savings measure.”

At the same time, Lyman says, open source software has matured and improved in quality, “so this bodes well for open source in general during these difficult economic times.” He thinks open source has arrived as an enterprise IT strategy. Martin Ross, vice president of technology at Healthscreen Solutions Inc., a Toronto-based medical records, billing and patient scheduling software and services company, agrees.

“We are living proof, since it is infused throughout all areas of our organization,” Ross says. Healthscreen uses open source software in areas including customer resource management (CRM), business intelligence, reporting, desktop and server operating systems, an in-house services platform, and even for its external software product, HSPractice.

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