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Why invest in open source management apps now?

Open source management technology has advanced to handle enterprise environments

By , Network World
May 29, 2009 12:14 PM ET

Network World - Cost isn’t the only reason IT managers should consider open source IT management applications, industry watchers say, as developers and communities continue to crank out enterprise-scale features, security and support for the free tools.

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Software maturity, support packages and customization capabilities are driving more enterprise and SMB IT organizations to consider open source as a viable alternative to a commercial network management platform, according to Forrester Research.

“With shrinking IT budgets and a continued need to control IT environments, the use of open source solutions to manage infrastructure and operations is no longer just an interesting experience but a viable alternative for enterprises of all sizes,” writes Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst at Forrester Research in a recent report. “Typically open source solutions are more lightweight and can be a real alternative for managing your IT environment. End users in both midsize and enterprise markets are looking at these tools as a way to save operational expenses.”

Forrester polled more than 2,225 software decision makers at enterprise and SMB companies in late 2008 and learned that 55% of those surveyed are interested in, implementing, expanding or piloting open source applications. Just 2% of those polled indicated that they were planning to decrease their use of open source and 1% said they would remove the applications. Another 33% were either not interested or unaware of their company’s plans with open source software.

The analyst firm says in the report that vendors are addressing the concerns around scalability, security and support that deterred people from adopting open source applications in their environment. A separate survey of 582 custom software decision-makers showed that 85% continue to be mildly to very concerned about the security of open source software and the availability of service and support. Slightly fewer (82%) worry about the complexity of the tools and the difficulty of adoption, while 83% have issues with open source product immaturity.

But such concerns aren’t completely warranted now, Hubbert says. With vendors such as GroundWork, Hyperic (recently acquired by SpringSource) and Zenoss developing business models and commercial support packages around more sophisticated open source applications, IT buyers have more alternatives available to them.

“Many open source vendors have realized these concerns and are introducing support options to their solutions; for example, Nagios has added incident-based support where they are working with partners to provide support/implementation and are starting to offer more support themselves,” reads the report.

Communities supporting open source projects could actually be a better resource for enterprise IT looking to fix glitches in their software than commercial software support teams, the firm adds. Open source software allows access to the source code, which Forrester says enables many individuals to be working on bugs and sharing their knowledge in a community setting.

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