Is the Open Source only Enterprise a reality?

Over the last couple of years Open Source has steadily developed and achieved a maturity that leaves no doubts on whether it can be used in an Enterprise. There’s practically no large company or organization out there that does not utilize Open Source technology as part of its IT portfolio. But is it possible to only use Open Source software?Most companies probably could continue to exist and operate with a pure Open Source software environment. On the infrastructure side it’s very obvious. Open Source operating systems (i.e. Linux) are used broadly already today. Open Source databases (i.e. MySQL, PostgreSQL, Ingres, etc.) are clearly seen as an alternative to their proprietary competitors. Open Source programming languages (i.e. Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, etc.) – are established standards, Open Source application servers and portals compete head to head with legacy technologies, and so on. But even in the solution space Open Source is more and more a contender. Open Source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has made an inroad in even the largest companies, Open Source Document and Content Management can be found in most evaluations done todayand Open Source Business Intelligence is closing the gap to proprietary alternatives quickly. So, are there any white spots? Maybe yes. Clearly Open Source ERP hasn’t been able to compete head to head with SAP and Oracle yet and there are many industry specific Open Source applications missing. And despite the availability of good solutions in the communication and desktop application space, Microsoft has been able to defend its position very well.So again, has the Open Source only Enterprise arrived? It’s clearly a possibility, but probably not yet a reality. We really miss here some comprehensive case studies to proof the feasibility. If you are an Open Source only Enterprise, drop us a note, we’ll be happy to talk about. For all the others, have a look at EOS Directory to find out how you could leverage Open Source better.

Is MySQL better than PostgreSQL? A debate on Enterprise Readiness

Recently we were approached by some of our users questioning our assessment/rating of MySQL versus PostgreSQL. Currently MySQL is rated with four stars for Enterprise Readiness, while PostgreSQL only shows three. All the other ratings (functionality, maturity, community, trend) are the same otherwise. This seems to be a good occasion to talk a bit about our rating criteria and the way we apply them. Also, we were having quite a bit of a debate in the newly formed EOS Advisory and Expert Board on this same topic, so it’s good to share some of the findings.So, here’s how we describe the Enterprise Readiness rating on this site:On the basis of the other criteria and additional experiences as well as further product characteristics (e.g. how easily a base technology be introduced can into the typical enterprise, how reactive the community is, how easily a product can be integrated in commonly-found enterprise IT environments, or how well does the product support open standards) the Enterprise Readiness Rating (aka “Optaros rating”) – indicator is consolidated. This rating describes how capable an open source product is to cope with the needs and requirements of midsize and large enterprises and organizations. The EOS Directory does not list products that do not at least meet the 1-star rating.To go a bit more in detail there are a number of aspects that influence our assessment of Enterprise Readiness, beyond of what is coming from the other rating factors:

  1. Popularity, market reach, distribution power, public awareness, typical ranking in top x lists:

    Clearly here MySQL seems to outperform PostgreSQL. If you google for example for the two technologies you will see that you have approx. 10 times more hits for MySQL than for PostgreSQL. Same effect when you look at Google Trend.

    Google Trend - MySQL versus PostgreSQL

    Asking a typical enterprise architect what open source databases come to his mind, he usually will mention MySQL first. Even on EOS Directory MySQL is much more popular (number of page hits) than PostgreSQL.

  2. Availability and quality of professional services and consulting: How easiy is it to find a training for MySQL versus PostgreSQL? How many potential partners can an Enterprise find to help with tuning, integration, support, etc.? Also here MySQL seems to be ahead of PostgreSQL. But with EnterpriseDB, Fujitsu, CommandPrompt, – 2ndQuadrant, Cybertec and other firms, Enterprises should be able to find good help for PostgreSQL also. So, no real advantages of one against the other.
  3. Adoption in the market (byEnterprises as well as SW vendors):MySQL has been very successful in partnering with all kinds of SW vendors (not only Open Source product companies). This results into a much higher adoption of MySQL in both the software vendors and consequently their end customer. Even on SourceForge MySQL is referenced by more than 7’000 other projects, while PostgreSQL is being mentioned by less than 1’000. Independently many Enterprises have established MySQL clearly as their second database standard (after Oracle or IBM), this is less often the case with PostgreSQL. So in terms of adoption MySQL takes the lead again.
  4. Enterprise specific atribute, features, extensions and requirements:Here we look whether MySQL offers better/more migration tools for example, whether it’s easier to manage with the typical enterprise tools already in place, etc. MySQL may have a bit of an advantage here, but not by much.
  5. Enterprise culture orientation:Is MySQL easier to buy for Enterprises than PostgreSQL? Does the support of Sun (and now Oracle) help to make it easier to evaluate and consume? Probably yes, but with the disadvantage of being less “open source”.

Now there’s a lot more to say about the two technologies of course. There are some known problems with MySQL that ask for workarounds, similar issues probably exist around PostgreSQL. There are open source projects that clearly recommend PostgreSQL over MySQL, e.g. Jackrabbit or Django. These things however should rather influence the “maturity” rating than the Enterprise Readiness. So if we keep the top rating for Maturity for both technologies we can’t make this a differencing factor in Enterprise Readiness. The same is true with other aspects such as the validity of the community or the availability of features.There have been discussions in the EOS Advisory and Expert Board to automate more of the rating process and base it on available data. This may be well the way to go for the future, but in my eyes it’s exactly these discussions and real world experiences that make the EOS Enterprise Readiness rating so powerful.Now, to come back to MySQL and PostgreSQL, should we downgrade MySQL to three stars, upgrade PostgreSQL to four stars or leave it as it is today? Stay tuned, we will make our decisions in the coming days ;-)And anyway, both are good and widely used technologies. The difference isn’t big, but may be somewhat prestigious. Join the discussion!

Open Source CMS – does the world need yet another one of these?

Content Management is a very popular category in the open source ecosystem. There are more than 2’000 open source technologies out there being capable to handle, manage and distribute content. So why would we need any of the 250 new ones published over the last six months?Some of the existing 2’000+ solutions are quite well known. The list of the most popular and most widely used technologies includes Alfresco, Apache Lenya, DotNetNuke, Drupal, eZ publish, Joomla, MediaWiki, openCMS, Plone, Typo3, WordPress and XOOPS. They all have in common that they are being downloaded hundreds of times per day, have gathered substantial communities and exist since many years. You could say there’s no reason to look further. These offerings cover all what an enterprise might need in terms of content management, if one can’t do the job the other will.So what’s the use for the other 2’000+ solutions and frameworks? And why have open source communities and contributors added more than 250 additional open source content management technologies during the last 6 months? It will certainly not be easy for them to be successful in the already crowded market. They don’t differentiate very much on technology (more than 70% are based on PHP) and they follow common standards for licensing (more than 80% are GPL). They have been created by small and very small communities (more than 80% of the new open source cms have less than three contributors) and their biggest differentiator may be their creative names such as Bedita, MyCMS, Spiffy CMS, KnowWE, Meduse, Yanel, Luftguitar CMS or Utopia CMS. Naming creativity alone will though not make them a winner.But what would we actually expect from new content management system? We want componentized platforms, modularized functionalities, adherence to open standard, sophisticated and easy-to-use inline editing, support for state of the art web technologies (such as Ajax, Flash, multi-media), automated syndication, marketing automation, widgets/x-idgets support and a service oriented access. And solutions should be configurable but still easy to handle and manage. That’s probably more than what small 1-2 person team can build in a few weeks. So does this mean we should stick with the top players again who aren’t fully able to cover these things neither? Maybe not, or at least not always.What is nice in open source is that users can evaluate technologies and pick the one that supports their specific needs the best. In many cases this can be a fairly specialized application and often only a limited scope of functionalities is needed. New entrants have the opportunity to shine with advanced architecture concepts, lightweight implementation approaches and state of the art integration of the latest standards. So why not look again at some of the newer technologies? And who knows maybe in a couple of years KnowWE, Meduese, Yanel or any other of these new kids on the block will be found in enterprise application stacks as often as Alfresco or Drupal today.

Open Source applications more popular than infrastructure?

Looking at the popularity ranking on EOS Directory for the last 6 months (mid December 2008 to mid June 2009) you face quite an unexpected distribution. From the top 20 projects with the highest number of page views the majority are applications.

With Pentaho, a business intelligence suite, taking the lead the next four following are applications as well. First popular infrastructure project is the Apache web server, followed by two other more component like applications. MySQL, PostgreSQL and Tomcat are the only other infrastructure technologies in the top 20. – Content and document management solutions are the best ranked category with Alfresco, KnowledgeTree, Nuxeo, phpBB, Bricolage, Drupal and XOOPS on the list. There are a couple of other surprises also looking at the list. vTiger CRM is positioned in front of SugarCRM, ADempiere made it onto the list while Compiere didn’t, DIA is the only pure desktop tool.While Pentaho seems to celebrate a strong lead and the top 20 attract 23% of the page views which is four times more than the average, it still has to be said that already rank 15 captures only slightly more than the average number of pageviews. Even the least popular project on EOS Directory was inspected at least 184 times over the last 6 months.

Will SMEs catch up with Enterprises in terms of Open Source adoption?

Perceived hurdles and challenges for SMEs for Open Source adoption (451 Group)There has been quite a bit of discussion in the scene on whether SMEs are the next big markets for Open Source to win. Matt Asay asked the question, what it takes that the vendors get it right and the 451 Group published reports (the graph is from one of them) on this same topic. Visualized in the graph SMEs seem to be mainly concerned about their own lack of expertise around Open Source, seem to be unaware of the possible options and may also be quite happy with what Microsoft of available free software are providing.What is quite obvious is the fact that Open Source adoption in SMEs hasn’t reached (yet) the level of what Enterprises report today. Forrester published some of the reasons recently:

  • 45% of SMEs are “very concerned” about security of open source compared to 9% in Enterprises
  • 57% of SMEs perceive Open Source as complex and hard to adopt, while only 32% of Enterprises feel the same
  • 68% of SMEs are worried about available service and support, while only 47% of Enterprises see the same problem

To fight these problems we have seen initatives coming from the industry making Open Source adoption easier. RedHat introduced RedHat Exchange to bundle infastructure and solution software. And Dell announced its “SME-in-a-box” initiative to combine hardware and Open Source software.The SME world is not homogeneous. While very small SMEs probably have no IT staff and few people to use IT at all, the large SMEs can be seen more like small Enterprises having typically their own IT department and hundreds of users of IT. – The smaller you go the more pressing the issues mentioned before if you don’t look at IT companies.An important fact is also the different economics you have to look at for small versus large companies. If you have very few users then the license cost that is typically user or volume based doesn’t count that much. However the installation, configuration, customization, operation, maintenance and support costs that are typically more complexity driven then user driven, can make a huge amount for small companies. If you pay 30k USD for the licenses for a small software system, but 250k USD for its installation and configuration, then you may rather take an initially more expensive commercially licensed solution that is tailored for your industry and doesn’t need a lot of customization rather than spending the money on services. This is specifically true if you follow common processes and basically need a standard ERP/CRM/etc. infrastructure. If of course a small company can become more competitive in the market place if it can adapt IT solutions and optimize processes and systems support to outperform the competition then Open Source may come well into play.On top of what already has been said new IT trends will increase the attractivity of Open Source for SMEs. More and more software is served as service (SaaS), a lot of the solutions provided are Open Source. And with the rise of Cloud Computing and respective services yet another hurdle for SMEs is being removed. And if also commercial Open Source providers focus a bit more on SMEs and make their solutions easy to use and easy to install/maintain/operate then we will see a continuous rise in adoption numbers also in SMEs. The ecosystem with (local) Integrators and Support Providers is contantly growing to make buying and applying Open Source software for SMEs as simple as calling Microsoft or Oracle partners in the past.

Cloud computing has nothing to do with Open Source, and everything …

Cloud computing is one of the hot topics in today’s IT discussions. No large vendor without an announcement on how to offer cloud computing services and platforms. No software product vendor not worrying about how to make his offering cloud computing aware or riding the cloud computing wave. This has in principle nothing to do with Open Source. However there are similarities in perception. Open Source became popular partially because people hoped to save money in software development and solution implementation. With cloud computing again people expect to save money on hosting and service provisioning by leveraging low cost computer power. To be able to offer low cost computer power Open Source of course comes into the game again. Open Source infrastructure just scales more economically than proprietary systems. And of course the nirvana is to host low cost software on low cost computing power. And if the purpose to provide low cost software access – is to attract large audiences and become a next facebook or youtube then you are probably better off planning with Open Source from the beginning otherwise you will not be able to pay the bills when you scale. So, cloud computing has nothing to do with Open Source by nature, but in reality the two things are quite well connected.P.S. Of course there are Open Source cloud computing components and elements out there, including the ones listed on EOS Directory, such as Globus Nimbus, OpenNebula and – Eucalyptus.

EOS Directory establishing Advisory and Expert Board with key Open Source experts

The creation of the Enterprise Open Source Directory (short: EOS Directory) in 2007 by Optaros has been triggered by a clear need of enterprises and organizations asking for help and advice to identify and select Open Source technologies. With roughly 250 Open Source platforms, solutions and frameworks listed and rated initially, EOS was able to establish itself as a source of reference in this space. Since then EOS Directory has continuously grown, listing more than 350 projects today and building up a vibrant community of visitors and input contributors. The EOS Directory Blog has become one of the key voices in the Open Source scene.In early 2009 Optaros has handed over the EOS Directory platform to Bruno von Rotz, a well known Open Source specialist and consultant and the initial sponsor of the initiative. To strengthen the neutral approach to ratings and selection of the technologies, the new EOS Directory Advisory and Expert Board has been established over the last weeks. Initial members of the EOS Directory Advisory and Expert Board include Aleksander Farstad, Ce?dric Walter, David Nu?scheler, Gianugo Rabellino, Roberto Galoppini, Hannes Gassert, Hans Waarle, Joel Gardet, Matt Asay, Matthias Geisler, Michael Hanisch, Olivier Pe?pin, Raju Bitter, Ralf Hauser, Seth Gottlieb, Stephen Walli and Tiberiu Fustos, representing user and provider communities as well as international expert audiences. The Advisory and Expert Board will be both instrumental in guiding the future development of the EOS Directory Platform as well as in making sure that the content is accurate, relevant and fairly represented.During the next months the EOS Directory Platform will also be rejuvenated and updated to even better support Enterprises and Organizations in need for Open Source technologies’ selection and evaluation help.

Do we need a FAIR TRADE label for commercial Open Source?

We all know, it’s not that easy to make money with Open Source. While Open Source has proven to be a great marketing (and distribution) tool, the implementation of Open Source based business models that are both profitable and scalable, have proven to be difficult. If you can’t sell the software you are missing an important revenue generator of traditional software companies. To compensate for this many commercial open source companies have created so called “enterprise versions” of their software, in most cases sold under a non-open-source license in subscription form. Enterprise version typically include additional features important to large companies – LDAP integration is one of the most common ones – and come with additional service packages such as extended compatibility testing, maintenance or support. – So far so good. But the license models applied can be very restrictive sometimes, asking for the rights on all modifications and developments done by the client for example. In the worst case this could mean that if a company decides to no longer pay for the subscription, the future use of the software installed is no longer permitted and all code developed or changed has to be shipped to the software provider. This is clearly far away from the ideas driving the Open Source movement. And of course many of the commercial Open Source companies apply a much more “free” model. So, maybe we need a FAIR TRADE label to separate the “good” ones from the “bad” ones? You may want to say that Open Source as such wanted to make this distinction already. But as we see there’s constant evolution and some of it may not show into the right direction.

Industry specific Open Source Business Solutions offer billions of savings

There has been a discussion for quite a while on whether there are good open source business solutions out there and to what extent these projects could replace proprietary software solutions. It clearly seems that it’s quite industry specific on whether you can find such sollutions or not. The telco industry made some efforts, but the most visible results clearly seem to come from the public sector, namely government solutions. In a recent announcement Blackduck highlights the value of open source technologies in the health care industry. Since Obama announced that he wants to push open source in this field, the interest is high of course. Blackduck estimates that the identified 800 health care open source projects represent a value of roughly USD 6 billion – or 31’000 staff years of work. That’s quite impressive. Even if not all of this is top class software and even if it doesn’t fit specific needs in a given country or context, this is a highly valuable knowledge and code base to start to work from.In the past we haven’t included a lot of industry specific software in EOS Directory despite the fact that we ran across quite a number of very useful technologies. We may need to change that decision.

Leveraging Open Source to lower risks and increasing competitiveness

Matt Asay has posted a very good summarizing presentation on the state of open source usage in enterprises and on how open source helps to go through the crisis.The title of the presentation is: Bailing out your business with open source.Have a look yourself!

View more Keynote presentations from mjasay.

Open Source companies are the more innovative marketeers

When you look who is pioneering innovative new marketing approaches and technologies you will often find Open Source companies being on top of the list. That’s not by accident. Open Source companies have much less budget to promote their products compared to their traditional commercial competitors. So they are forced spend the money wiser and come up with new and better ideas. If you look for example at the reference lists of marketing automation SaaS platforms such as Marketo, Market2Lead, Silverpop, Loopfuse or Eloqua you will find many Open Source company on these. Sadly enough there’s no really usable open source technology out there to do marketing automation despite the fact that some of the mentioned SaaS players do actually use Open Source technologies to quite some extent. But that’s maybe a niche to be filled by somebody? Anyway, Open Source companies are not only leading when it’s about applying marketing automation but also along other modern techniques such as content syndication, leveraging SlideShare, YouTube, Twitter or social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. So if you are looking for good ideas on how to do marketing, many Enterprise may be well advised to look at how Open Source companies do these things.(Comment: For our German language visitors interested in innovative web marketing techniques and approaches there’s a good introduction white paper available. For the English speaking audience the SaaS vendors mentioned above do provide good information)

Do Enterprises bother too much about legal issues around Open Source?

Enterprises are quite worried about Open Source license models and potential legal issues. I have been talking to companies that claimed to not use any GPL type software because of the viral nature of the license. Others have decided to install complex processes to make sure that every license is understood and all consequences checked. Do Enterprises bother too much here? Many probably could take it a bit easier given that most use is really use, very few companies actually alter the software they download. And even if they did, it still wouldn’t be an issue as long as the software is not redistributed. There may be situations in international companies with many subsidiaries and legal entities, where “distribution” could become an issue even inside the enterprise, but this occasions are rare and shouldn’t be the reason for banning GPL. Many companies are also afraid to publish software (or software changes) because of the potential liability claims, but there are ways around this too. So, if your Enterprise doesn’t use Open Source for purely legal issues, it may be right to ask a second (or third) time before giving in.