IDC Lectures Services Firms on Open Source Software
May 8, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The analysts at IDC have been studying open source software, and they have come to the conclusion that open source technologies are becoming an increasingly important tool for IT services companies. But IDC is warning that trying to take advantage of the open source software movement might be a bit trickier than the stalwarts in the services racket might expect.
While the system integration and technical service units of the big players–IBM Global Services, Hewlett-Packard Services, Sun Microsystems Services, Unisys, and even Novell–were cited for having open source as a key part of their services portfolios, IDC had plenty of advice to give these companies and any other player that wants to jump into the game as open source software not only goes mainstream, but starts moving up the stack to the application layer.
The relationship between open source software and services is a bit like the chicken and the egg, according to IDC. “A more widespread adoption of Linux and open source software is encouraged by the increasing availability of a much stronger set of external support, training, consulting, and implementation services,” says Sophie Mayo, director of emerging technologies at IDC. “There is no longer any doubt that enterprises are trying to take advantage of the quality, flexibility, and license cost savings that open source software offers. However, they have to take into consideration integration, maintenance, and support costs while deploying and managing their open source infrastructure. As the adoption increases, services providers are working to become their clients’ single point of contact for all of their open source initiatives. They are also creating more refined offerings, including pre-integrated stacks of open source or mixed-source components, and are supporting them.”
IDC believes that within two to three years, deploying open source software will be normal, and that now is the time to jump into the services game. The analyst firm is also suggesting that vendors be creative with new services pricing models–much as Sun has been a thought leader with its per-employee annual pricing method for the Java Enterprise System middleware stack, which is in the process of being taken open source. IDC also recommends that companies learn “the art of componenty,” by which it means starting with a core open source product and then offer commercial plug-ins or extensions as a way of generating product or revenues. This is necessary because those who want to play in the open source arena need to move beyond mere installation and technical support as a means of making money. Finally–and perhaps somewhat paradoxically–IDC recommends that any company wanting to jump into the open source services business has to continually demonstrate a commitment to open source and open standards.