Gartner joins squabble over the definition of open source

Business models are incompatible

Gartner today joined squabbling by vendors over the meaning, purpose and spirit of open source by declaring that users demand the right to modify and redistribute software code and the resulting products.

In a recent research note, Gartner analysts Brian Prentice and Mark Driver said that some members of the open source software community were concerned about the role that vendors play in supplying and supporting the software.

"Vendors increasingly want to tweak the meaning of open source to include, for example, attribution licensing, which says the user can modify and re-distribute the software and make derivative versions based on it only if they give the author credit," Prentice said.

"But 'open source' is simply a licensing agreement that allows unfettered modification and redistribution of software code. In fact, it is both a key sign of a healthy open source community and a key benefit to users."

According to Gartner, the current debate among open source vendors is about reconciling an inherent incompatibility.

"The incompatibility is not with the commercialisation of open source software, but rather between open source and traditional industry business models designed to achieve single-vendor dominance of products or technical standards," Prentice said.

Gartner advised open source software users that the uncertainty around vendors' claims would make sourcing and architectural decisions for open source software more difficult.

To mitigate this problem, users must demand a strict definition of open source linked to the modification and redistribution of code and products, which are significant benefits of the open source model.

A recent Gartner survey shows that open source software has penetrated the IT environments of many Asia Pacific organisations.

It found that 57 percent are currently using open source software, and for those organisations it represented approximately 26 percent of their overall software portfolios.

It primarily substitutes for commercial server and desktop operating systems, database management and network and system management tools.

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