The second wave in open source

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The economic malaise currently gripping the globe has claimed many victims, but one area of business that has actually benefited is open source software adoption.

This is not just because open source software can generate savings in software license costs – it is also because of the depth and breadth of quality software that is now available under an open source license.

Here at the inaugural LinuxCon in Portland, Oregon, the focus is very much on Linux, however I believe that we are seeing a “second wave” emerging in open source, one that is bigger and broader than Linux and lower-level system software and that is starting to focus on strategic applications and infrastructure in companies of all sizes.

Having established one of the world’s first Innovation Centres for open source 12 months ago, Accenture has seen a change in how enterprises approach this type of software.

The demand has accelerated as the financial crisis has deepened, and this has taken place in parallel with an increased understanding and acceptance of open source from the largest organisations.

And it’s only going to increase. This week at LinuxCon, I had the opportunity to participate on a panel discussion moderated by Matt Asay.

Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond kicked off the session by highlighting recent Forrester research which shows that open source software is the top priority for software development professionals in 2009. And Forrester’s research backs up our own experience -- they’ve found a consistent increase in interest in OSS, led by mainstream, enterprise development organisations.

Our clients increasingly ask for insight into how open source can deliver faster time to market and substantially lower licensing and maintenance costs compared to other approaches.

The topic of the panel was “The True Cost of Linux and Open Source” and, unsurprisingly, my fellow panelists – Noah Broadwater from Sesame Workshop and David Buckholtz from Sony Pictures Entertainment, both described how they are demanding that the open source technology they use be delivered with the same rigor and success as solutions built on proprietary alternatives.

A underlying theme of all of the panelists’ comments was the need for open source to be packaged and “productised” in a way that companies of all sizes can better access the software – whether by easing an ultimate procurement or by simply installing it without having to have deep technical resources on the development.

Noah spoke of how Sesame Workshop literally has two developers who do everything, and how important it is to him to not only have the flexibility provided by open source, but also to have open source that doesn’t consume these developers in non-value added integration and troubleshooting.

With the rich set of open source projects available, both commercially and community supported, this productisation is well underway.

I believe that the next logical step is for the open source community at large to truly collaborate and develop an enterprise-grade platform, completely built using open source.

A platform that goes well beyond what was achieved with LAMP and that extends into portal, integration busses, process management and data management. And that is fully supported by open source management tools.

We see some of this today from Red Hat, but there is still an opportunity for a more extensive stack that provides CIOs with a true alternative to today’s commercial stacks.

Tony Roby is Executive Director-Innovation and Emerging Technologies, at Accenture

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