Web 2.0 Yes, Open Source, Maybe

Survey of IT executives indicates concern over maintenance costs of open source software.

A new study says the use of so-called Web 2.0 (define) applications in the enterprise is growing, but those customers are more cautious about adopting open source solutions for collaborative applications.

Nermertes Research said its latest "Collaboration Applications" report is based on five months of in-depth interviews with more than 120 IT executives at large companies (about $10 billion in annual revenue on average).

Among those executives, 18 percent said their company is using blogs, 32 percent are using wikis, and 23 percent are using RSS (define).

The report further tracks collaboration vendor performance and application adoption. In that regard, enterprise customers are investigating both commercial and open source solutions, with 26 percent either considering or already using open source applications.

However, a much greater 55 percent said they planned to select such established companies as Microsoft (Quote) and IBM (Quote) as their strategic collaboration vendor.

Nemertes said its interview results indicate that some IT executives will consider open source, but many do not think it is enterprise ready and also have concerns about support costs. IT executives surveyed said the ongoing maintenance of open-source applications would be higher than for commercial off-the-shelf products.

Others concerns raised by some of the IT execs include scalability, security, reliability and feature sets which they said outweighed potential capital cost savings on open source.

"There's a clash of cultures," Irwin Lazar, principal analyst & program director at Nemertes, told internetnews.com. "You have a lot of open source companies saying 'Here's the future of computing, here's the source code, anyone can do whatever they want.' It sounds great to the user, but from a large company perspective, there are real world compliance and security issues. In most cases they need a company or some entity backing the software before they will adopt it."

Andrew Aitken, founder and managing partner of open source consultancy Olliance Group, said there's no question open source is being rapidly adopted in the enterprise and is confident the support issues will be addressed.

"Enterprise customers don't require open source solutions to be one hundred percent competitive on features with proprietary software, but they do expect the service level agreements to be as good," Aitken told internetnews.com. He noted a lot of the big enterprise consulting firms are building up open source practices to help address the support issue.

In addition to the big Linux vendors like Red Hat, Lazar noted there are plenty of niche application areas where open source has found a home in the enterprise, such as the Asterisk PBX. He also noted large enterprise suppliers like IBM are increasingly supporting and adding open source software to its list of offerings.

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