Interoperability Issues Hamper Open-Source Adoption

While commercial open-source solutions are being broadly adopted, there are obstacles slowing that adoption, particularly around interoperability, the Open Solutions Alliance has found.

The Alliance, which was established in late 2006 by companies including CollabNet, SpikeSource, and Unisys as a consortium to help drive the interoperability and adoption of open solutions, sponsored a series of five customer forums in the United States and Europe in 2007, which were attended by more than 100 customers, integrators and vendors. A summary report of the findings from those forums will be issued Dec. 12, which includes a list of the six most common interoperability issues attendees are experiencing.

Among these are centralized identity management, or single sign-on; data integration, including both real-time data synchronization and batch transfer; and portability, as customers want their solutions to work across different platforms, particularly the various Linux distributions and Windows.

Dominic Sartorio, the president of OSA and lead author of the report, whose day job is director of product management for partner products at SpikeSource, told eWEEK that customers also want user interface customization and portal integration, so that integrated solutions have a consistent look and feel. In addition, customers want content management integration so that shared content can easily integrate with the same back-end content repository; and component compatibility, ensuring that a given version of one component works with a given version of another component, Sartorio said.

According to the alliance, larger enterprises consistently said business process orchestration remains an issue and they want to be able to integrate their solutions into an end-to-end business process, using SOA-style best practices.

They also want to be able to integrate the production management and monitoring of open solutions into the same management frameworks used to manage other IT applications and infrastructure, the summary report said.

Asked what is being done on the interoperability front, Sartorio said: “We believe the broader open-source community is doing too little. That’s why we exist. Left to their own devices, developers prefer to build new features and focus on the point solution where they have expertise. Open-source projects are only infrequently built from the ground up to have good interoperability hooks.”

If interoperability is not treated as a core feature, many potential users of open-source solutions will simply not adopt those products, resulting in less revenue opportunity and fewer engineering resources to fix the problem in later releases, Sartorio cautioned.

“This may sound like a chicken-and-egg problem, but vendors need to get interoperability right in Version 1 of their products. Clearly there’s a need for an organization to champion interoperability, to educate and to facilitate collective action,” he said.

Page 2: Interoperability Matters

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