Open source: Moving on up the stack

Open-source applications should be on the buying lists for enterprises in 2007

Open source should be on the short list when it comes to application-buying decisions in 2007, industry experts say.

While open source applications for collaboration, content management and CRM may not have reached the maturity level of Linux or the Apache Web server, they're getting there. As a result, those tools are worth a look, even if it's only a bargaining chip in negotiations with traditional software vendors.

"Open source has won the first battle: It is now listed among the default platform decisions," says Dave Jenkins, CTO at online outdoor sporting goods retailer The next step, open source users agree, is moving up the stack and figuring out which open source tools are ready for enterprise deployments.

"Infrastructure open source products are essentially a no-brainer at this point, but the adoption of enterprise applications has been slow," says Curtis Edge, CIO at The Christian Science Monitor, which revamped its Web sites with open source software last year.

Edge traces the lag in adoption to the fact that IT decision makers often don't factor open source into their software-buying discussions, because they're uncertain about newer open source tools.

For his part, Edge continues to expand the open source products on his radar. "There are a lot of new commercial open source products, and many more to come [this] year," he says. "SugarCRM, Alfresco, EnterpriseDB lead my list of commercial open source products that are -- or will be -- ready for prime time in the next six to 12 months. I am sure there are many more."

Organizations should expect a widening list of open source options in 2007 as venture capitalists continue to put money into companies formed to provide support for open source tools. Digium, the commercial entity that supports the Asterisk open source IP PBX, got a US$13.8 million boost from venture capitalists last year, for example.

"The next area for a lot of activity seems to be around IT management and monitoring, virtualization management, systems management," says Raven Zachary, analyst at The 451 Group. "There are a lot of start-ups right now that have gotten funding."

Jim Klein, director of information services and technology for the Saugus Union School District, says he expects a significant rise in the number of commercial open source offerings this year and in the number of enterprises that latch on to those products.

"The case can be made that Linux on the desktop may actually come of age this year. . . . [And I] expect some significant corporate moves to solutions such as Zimbra [open source collaboration and messaging software] from Exchange," Klein says.

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