Getting Open Source into the Enterprise

Seth Godin has a good insight on why open source is a hard sell to CEOs:

Almost no new idea meets the needs of shareholders and CEOs. That’s because most of all they need predictability and apparent freedom from risk.

He talks about perceived needs, usually served by relationships with big proprietary software companies, vs actual needs – where open source usually does a very good job.

So how can one challenge somebody’s perception of their own needs?


3 Responses to “Getting Open Source into the Enterprise”

  1. 1 Harun April 16, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I think the primary contributor to getting Open Source into the Enterprise is Developer Productivity tools.

    If the Enterprise can have more productive developers with Open Source then that will be the choice.

    In ten years in the business, the Open Source tools I have seen adopted (aka developers were able to sell their use to mgmt) in my organization have been the tools that have made us (developers) more productive.

    To get tools that make developers more productive they have to be stable, have a moderate to low learning curve, developers have to like them, have to be low maintenance and new versions of the tools can’t break things in the old versions.

    The two projects that stand out the most (there are more) are Perl and Apache. Both have met those previously stated requirements very well.

    The same goes for the actual OS. Getting the switch made from M$ to Ubuntu or any other version of Linux needs to meet the same criteria. Will the current developers and new hires be more productive on a M$ OS or a Linux OS?

    I think the trend is improving under Linux, but to be honest, the workgroups I know are trained to be more productive under M$. I think we can fix this within the next five years though. I hope to help fix this with my own contributions to Open Source as well.

  2. 2 Niall April 16, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    A lot of it depends on what you mean by “getting into the enterprise”. Code is one thing, but things like hardware support are another. While the state of hardware support has come a long way in recent years (certainly since I started using Linux over 10 years ago), things like Ubuntu Dapper not properly supporting the most recent Dell servers (x950) can put a lot people off running their business on Linux.

    The fact of the matter is, it’s a lot easier to do unattended installs of Windows, Solaris and other commercial operating systems than Linux. More often than not, less fiddling is required. In the case of the Dell 2950, in order to perform unattended installations, I’ve had to rebuild the Dapper installer with my own kernel which has proper support for the network cards, the RAID controller, and an extra patch to flip the ethernet device names as they show up in reverse to the BIOS order. It really doesn’t help that Ubuntu’s idea of LTS doesn’t appear to include updated hardware support.

  3. 3 MikeD April 18, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Conceptually, the acceptance of Open Source will require a rethink as to the balance of product vs service. Traditionally organisations are used to buying a market product with the embedded assumption that time has generated the necessary reliablity of product AND support entities.
    The market is starting to see a shift towards a more service orientated industry, but the perception is still there to not invest in people and retain core skill sets – largely due to the flexibility and dynamics of employees and rising remuneration costs.
    The recent growth of the offshore consulting visa vi outsourcing of skillsets, has not been the golden egg re expenditure savings, and methinx we will see this actually help the open source industry i.e. sofware savings could in turn be partially invested in the more complex skillsets required to maintain these products.
    I speak primarily from a BI perspective and toolsets such as Pentaho and Mondrian, but every win from every aspect of the s/w industry is a win for us all.

    It will take a while, but have you noticed how the major vendors are trying to curtail this by offering ‘freeware / trial’ versions so as to try and hook in the burgeoning student work force whilst still in their formative training years? lol.

    I could go on ad naseum, but the more those two words ‘Open SOurce’ are printed, the closer we get!!!

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