Open Source Mainstream Begins to Flow Through IBM i Land
February 1, 2010 Dan Burger
So when does open source software become mainstream in IBM Power Systems i environments? It’s fair to say that mainstream is not even close to an accurate description today. But don’t think it’s disappearing from the radar screen. More people are discovering open source software, and you should expect this frontier to be well traveled sooner rather than later. Larry Augustin, chief executive officer at SugarCRM and open source frontiersman, uses the term “safe bet” to describe enterprise open source software at the dawn of 2010.
Software reliability, in general, has been widely questioned. And open source software has been saddled with a common misconception of being unprofessional. Augustin’s safe bet comment seems aimed directly at that misconception. And almost any open source proponent would attack the question of unreliability by replying that peer-reviewed software is more reliable than proprietary software.
“People used to say that no one ever got fired for buying IBM. I think we are at the point today where no one gets fired for buying open source,” Augustin says. And he follows that up with the opinion that open source has become “pervasive in enterprise infrastructure.”
OK, maybe Augustin is a bit of an evangelist; he is, after all, pretty much the spokesman for open source. And on the occasion of this interview with The Four Hundred, he was armed with statistics to back up his pervasive in enterprise infrastructure comment.
A Smith Barney annual CIO survey that Augustin says is a couple of years old had more than 80 percent of Fortune 1000 CIOs deploying or evaluating Linux. “That tells you the degree to which it is out there,” he says. A 2008 Forrester Research survey (sponsored by Unisys), recorded that 58 percent of IT executives use open source for mission critical applications; 79 percent use it in their application infrastructure; and 80 percent use factors other than costs when selecting open source. Those other factors included open standards support, avoiding vendor lock-in, and ease of integration.
“The way I see it, open source has become ubiquitous in the Fortune 1000,” he enthuses. Very quotable, and an impressive follow up to the enterprise pervasiveness description, wouldn’t you say? Sometimes the silver-tongued Augustin sounds like a head coach of the underdog team before the Super Bowl. The stats for open source may not stack up with those of proprietary software, but they do prove that it deserves to be in the game.
At SugarCRM, which makes an open source customer relationship management system by the same name, the installed base has climbed to more than 6,000 commercial customers in more than 30 countries. The company claims 60,000 system deployments. (That includes the free use of the product.) Those numbers indicate interest in commercial open source that might surprise the casual open source spectator.
CRM software is designed to increase sales, improve service, and maintain customer loyalty. SugarCRM been available to i/OS users since mid-2007. When deployed, it would most likely be run in a PHP environment consisting of Zend Core, an Apache Web server, and a MySQL database.
System i shops commonly run the software on an open source platform that consists of Linux, PHP, the Apache Web server, and the MySQL database. Some of the most knowledgeable folks on open source systems on IBM i are the Young i Professionals. That organization has a sandbox test environment and a copy of SugarCRM that is available for developers curious to find out what it tastes like. This copy of SugarCRM is running on IBM i 6.1, but the application runs on any i/OS release that supports Zend Core PHP and MySQL.
PHP application development and MySQL databases have both become popular open source options in IBM i environments, but popular is a relative term. Just a few years ago there was almost nothing going on in the iSeries environment with either of these choices. Now you’ll find sessions on these topics at COMMON and other education and training conferences that focus on the Power Systems platform.
Other open source software that is finding its way into i/OS shops include such products as systems management tools from GroundWork and Nagios, enterprise resource planning software from xTuple and webERP, the BIRT reporting and business intelligence tool, bug-tracking and help desk tools from Mantis/400, and an extract, transform, and load (ETL) tool from Talend.
“I think the IBM AS/400 customer is looking for a business solution, and they don’t care if it’s open source or not,” Augustin says. “I also believe that market is very well served through the channel. Many customers are looking for someone who can be a good partner to them in the business. They probably have a relationship with a local service provider or vendor who is helping deliver that solution.”
VARs have an interest in SugarCRM, he says, because traditional ERP vendors in the AS/400 market have not kept up with modern Web-based technology.
“We provide a solution that is competitive and delivered through a Web browser, but we enable the channel to deliver it,” Augustin says. “Whether it runs at the customer site or through one of our channel partners or on one of the open cloud services, the channel partners will manage that, customize it, and deploy it.”
Software as a service offerings are cutting VARs out of sales opportunities and Augustin believes working closely with the resellers will pay off for SugarCRM, which he says, derives two-thirds of its business through the reseller channel. He also believes that percentage will increase.
Augustin will be the keynote speaker at the Toronto User Group Tech 2010 Conference, which is on April 27 in Toronto, Canada.