Everyone knows that the use of open source software has grown fast. But how much is just downloaded for free, and how much is in deployment, running data centers and desktops? Previously, answering these questions required one to assume a correlation between the volume of downloads and corresponding deployments. But now better tools that don't require leaps of faith are on the way.
OpenLogic Inc., an open source software and service provider in Broomfield, Colo., is leading an Internet-based study to help companies identify which open source products they use and to identify some open source adoption trends.
Kim Weins, OpenLogic's senior vice president of marketing, said OpenLogic initiated the project after concluding that an accurate open source portfolio would help it assist clients with support issues if they knew what ran on their machines.
Collectively, the data also will also be useful for the open source community and industry analysts as they explore which products enjoy the most widespread use, she said. Several well-known organizations, such as IDC, Unisys and CollabNet Inc., have signed on as sponsors of the project in order to help boost participation; IDC also will incorporate the results in its research, Weins said.
To ensure privacy and preclude potential source code litigation claims, no information that could identify individual participating companies or respondents is requested, she said.
To participate in the survey, users can go to the OSS Census website, log in, answer a few questions and the OSS Discovery tool will scan a sampling of servers or desktops, and automatically list all the open source software it finds. Respondents will receive an inventory of their own software portfolio and get access to the results for responding companies of similar size, industry or region, Weins said.
As they are tallied on the website, ongoing survey responses will be made available. OpenLogic expects to issue its first formal report in the summer and subsequent quarterly reports thereafter for the next few years as needed, Weins said. Although the first report will simply establish a benchmark, future summaries will be able to show how much usage has changed in the intervening period, she said.Open source becomes mainstream: No results needed
Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica Inc. and an OpenLogic steering committee member, said the survey will help the industry fill the "black hole" concerning deployment of free software and help companies evaluate their software holdings and assess future purchases.
"Everybody measures themselves against their peers about everything." and the survey results could help IT managers weigh different software options, he said. It's really no different than industry salary surveys or point-of-sale grocery data, he added.
Stephen O'Grady of RedMonk research and consulting firm agreed. People are running far more open source software than they realize but there hasn't been a way to quantify it, he said. Even if the survey gets only modest returns, the trends should be valuable, he added.
Matt Lawton, the director of open source business strategies at IDC, said that IDC and other research firms estimate usage of open source software by talking to customers and vendors, but the Web-based survey of voluntary participants should "help us get closer to the truth about deployment."
Whatever the survey uncovers, the use of open source software, both in free downloads and paid support services, is growing, affirmed Weins.
"Enterprises are starting to realize that they have a lot of open source software throughout their organizations," Weins said. "We're seeing the tide turn from CIOs wanting to keep it out to wanting to use it where appropriate. We're almost on an equal footing."
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