Gartner: 85 per cent of firms use open source

News 17 Nov, 2008

The majority of companies are using open source software for business processes, but that brings some risk, says the analyst firm.

The majority of businesses – some 85 per cent – already use open source software (OSS), with the rest set to dip their toes in the collaborative waters within the next year.

This was according to a global survey by analyst firm Gartner, which found such software is being used for mission critical processes as often as it is for less business-necessary functions.

Many firms are switching to open source systems as a replacement for commercial, proprietary software, Gartner added. Indeed, the top three reasons firms are switching is a lower total cost of ownership and “reduction in development of cost-prohibitive factors”, as well as how easy it is to start new projects and initiatives.

It wasn’t all about cash. Some of the firms surveyed suggested they saw open source as a way to ensure a vendor didn't come to “own” their IT department, while others said it helped them avoid complex procurement procedures.

But the poll revealed that 69 per cent of the surveyed firms had no set policy for tracking open source use, leaving them at risk to intellectual property troubles.

"Just because something is free doesn't mean that it has no cost," said Laurie Wurster, research director at Gartner.

"Companies must have a policy for procuring OSS, deciding which applications will be supported by OSS, and identifying the intellectual property risk or supportability risk associated with using OSS," she said. "Once a policy is in place, then there must be a governance process to enforce it."

Customer services remains the top area for open source in businesses, followed by integration, finance, and business analytics, the survey found.