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Open source not just mainstream, it’s mainstreamier

Survey shows 56 percent of end users say half their software purchases will be open source

I had to chuckle when I saw the news release headline “Open Source Now Mainstream,” because that’s been the theme of every open source conference I’ve covered for the last five years. But when Michael Skok, general partner at North Bridge Venture Partners and chair of the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) 2011 that begins today in San Francisco, says open source is now mainstream, he can back it up.

A survey OSBC is releasing today at the conference is different from surveys in prior years because 60 percent of the respondents in the latest survey are end users, not vendors who’d be expected to hype open source. And the end users are fully embracing open source in both the public and private sectors. So I guess instead of being mainstream, it's "mainstreamier."

OSBC 2011 also gives Microsoft another opportunity to declare its love for open source with a keynote on vendor collaboration around cloud computing.

The survey also shows that 56 percent of respondents predict that half of enterprise software purchases over the next five years will be open source software. In past OSBC surveys, that number was more likely to be 10 percent to 15 percent, as customers worried about violating licenses or company policies not to use open source, Skok said. Today, those concerns don’t come up, he said; instead customers want to know how well open source works, how do the development tools work and how quickly they can get applications into production.

Microsoft makes a return to the OSBC as Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group, delivers this keynote: “Building Bridges: Driving Transformational Architecture for the Cloud through Greater Vendor Collaboration.”

Yeah, that Microsoft. The one whose CEO, Steve Ballmer, famously described open source Linux as “a cancer.” Now, having seen the light, Microsoft says “we love open source.” At OSBC 2010, I reported how Stuart McKee, national technology officer for Microsoft in the U.S., told his audience, “We all agree we've had a contentious relationship in the past, but that is really changing.” As OSBC 2011 begins, Skok says Microsoft acknowledges that if it can’t beat open source, join ‘em.

“Microsoft has a number of proprietary stacks and products but, on the other hand ... I think they are being very proactive about figuring out how to include open source in their ecosystem,” he said.

Specifically, Skok says, Microsoft has incorporated Drupal, the open source project for content management systems, into its stack for Microsoft Web development platforms such as Visual Studio, .NET, Silverlight and others.

I’ll tell you what Gupta says in my next post.

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