Volume 4, Number 7 -- February 27, 2007

Many Top Open Source Projects Still Lack Enterprise Support

Published: February 27, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Commercially supported open source software may not be prevalent, but it is not alien in data centers any more and it is certainly getting to be more normal. But if a somewhat self-serving survey of open source projects done by OpenLogic is any indication, many popular open source packages are still lacking enterprise-class support, and this is an issue that has an adverse affect on the adoption of open source products among enterprises.

Few companies are comfortable deploying open source programs in their IT infrastructure, unless they have the kind of expansive developer staff that allows them to support their own implementations of open source programs. IT vendors, systems integrators, Web and Internet service providers, and other big IT shops fall in this category, and they often are heavy contributors to various open source projects. A shop with a few or a handful of its own programmers and maybe a few system administrators cannot afford this luxury, which is why the commercial Linux distributors like Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, and others are in business; moreover, companies like OpenLogic, SpikeSource, and SourceLabs provide stacks of open source software with commercial-grade support that is separate from the Linux distros.

But even with this, the lack of support from a big name vendor is still an issue. "We know that most technical people understand the many benefits of using open source software," says Steven Grandchamp, OpenLogic's chief executive officer. "But our research shows that there are lingering business concerns, including commercial-grade support, that have enterprises looking for a solution."

To prove the point, and to try to stir up some sales for its OpenLogic Enterprise stack, which includes some 230 open source programs and tools to manage, patch, and update them as if they all came from the same IT vendor, OpenLogic did a survey of 800 IT managers to gauge their thoughts on open source software. Developers and system administrators have been deploying open source technologies for years inside the data center--Linux was often there, and there in a big way, before the IT manager had a clue, in fact.

In that survey, the IT managers polled said that the challenges presented by open source software were many of the same that affect other programs. They have trouble choosing the right open source programs and tools; they can't always find enterprise-grade support for the products; their techies have issues with integrating open source programs with each other and with existing closed source and in-house developed programs; they worry about where the code in open source programs comes from and if contributors are trustworthy; and they have issues updating collections of open source projects, which are stored in various repositories and which have different mechanisms for being patched and updated.

Interestingly, according to the OpenLogic study, 58 percent of those companies polled said that they have a precise policy about how to use open source software, or are working on one. Of the companies that deploy more than 25 different open source software programs in their enterprises, 83 percent have such policies or are working on them.

To try to give a sense of the types of programs companies are deploying, OpenLogic surveyed its own customer base and asked them what bits of the OpenLogic Enterprise stack they deploy. Of the 230 programs, 75 were commonly deployed. The top programs in use by OpenLogic customers are in the table below:

1 Struts 8 Hibernate 15 Velocity 22 Dom4j
2 Ant 9 Eclipse 16 JBoss 23 Perl
3 Xerces 10 Apache Web server 17 JSTL 24 OpenSSH
4 Tomcat 11 POI 18 JDOM 25 Tcl/Tk
5 Spring 12 Axis 19 MySQL 26 vim
6 Log4j 13 Jakarta Commons 20 iText 27 PHP
7 JUnit 14 Xalan 21 CVS 28 Regexp

The interesting bit is this: if you ignore the OpenLogic support package, only half of the 75 packages that customers commonly deploy in the OpenLogic stack actually have an alternative means of receiving enterprise-class support. That means no Web knowledge base, no human being on the telephone. It means depending on your own skills and those of your peers who visit the project forums and answer questions.

This is not something that makes IT managers very comfortable. OpenLogic is clearly counting on that discomfort as well as the appeal of open source technologies to drive its sales. So far, in about two years' time, OpenLogic has been able to peddle its integrated support service to more than 700 customers in 25 countries. The wonder is that the number is not larger, and that is probably more a reflection of the stubborn independence of developers inside companies and the success of the Linux distributors to provide support for many of the same components that OpenLogic is covering.


OpenLogic Expands Through More Partnerships

OpenLogic Delivers BlueGlue 3.2 Open Source Stack

SpikeSource, SourceLabs Launch Supported Open Source Stacks

OpenLogic Secures $4 Million in Venture Capital

SpikeSource Gets Big Backers As It Launches

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Kevin Vandever,
Shannon O'Donnell, Victor Rozek, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
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