Open source grows up

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Companies are embracing open-source software because of its quality -- not just cost savings.

Jim Wenner isn't an open-source evangelist -- he's just practical.

Three years ago, the director of IT wasn't looking for the Cadillac of business intelligence software. Wenner only needed to run queries and reports for $4.9 billion convenience-store chain Sheetz Inc. After investigating his options, he chose a relatively new open-source BI suite from Pentaho Corp. over better-known products because the reporting functions met his needs and there were undeniable cost savings.

Of course, the ever-practical Wenner also hedged his bet: "We gave ourselves enough time that if six to nine months down the road we were going down the wrong path, we would be able to replace it with something else," he says.

Tipping Point

The most striking finding of the Accenture survey is that the organizations polled said that their top reasons for using open-source software were quality, reliability and security. Those factors all came in ahead of cost savings, which previously had been the dominant driver of open-source use.

"I see it every day. Organizations say, 'We've saved tons [of money] on Linux, and we were very happy. So we decided to throw out DB2 and Oracle [for open source], and we're just dying!' They're leveraging open source and not sufficiently taking into account risk management," Driver says. "They're downloading this stuff off the Internet, not engaging with the vendor, assuming it won't crash or they'll be able to debug it or just Google the answer on the Internet. Oftentimes that's just not the case."

For those reasons, Accenture advises its clients to use vendor-supported versions of the open-source software. "That gives you the ability to get access to the right capabilities and support," Daugherty says.

It's one thing to dabble in open source, but one-third of the Accenture survey respondents said they expect to migrate mission-critical operations to open-source software by next fall, with high-tech and financial services companies leading the way.

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