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UK lagging rest of Europe in open source adoption

Sun conducted a survey of small and medium-sized businesses (up to 500 employees) to discover their usage and intentions towards open source software and MySQL in particular. I was interested to see the report, particularly after attending an open source round table last week about open source software in government.

The researchers interviewed around 100 people in each of 7 European countries, targetting the “CIO or IT-Manager”. The results were surprising to me. Only 34% of UK (or England; the report uses both terms and does not seem to understand the difference) businesses claim to use open source software, versus 72% in France and 69% in Germany. The only country with lower usage is Sweden on 33%.

I’m sceptical. It seems to me that you have to make some effort to use no open source software anywhere in your business. A web site with PHP and MySQL. Someone editing audio with Audacity, or  using Firefox to browse the web, or Filezilla to upload files. Still, let’s take the report at face value for the moment.

Another question is more interesting, asking what percentage of a business’s IT infrastructure is open source.

Even in Germany, the biggest user, only 2% claimed to be completely open source. 72% were less than half open source, and 31% did not use it at all.

In the UK, none were completely open source, 84% less than half, and 66% have no perceived usage.

Here’s a good result though: among UK companies that do use open source, 65% use it for critical projects. This figure is actually above the European average.

Another striking figure: the biggest driver for open source adoption is to save money (61% in the UK, 66% in Germany). Next comes freedom from lock-in (34% in the UK, 53% in Germany), and after that flexibility (20% in the UK, 34% in Germany). Multi-selection must have been possible as figures add to more than 100%.

This last one gives me pause for thought. Most IT companies claim to save you money; it’s part of the standard sales pitch. Open source software generally does though, partly because the whole concept is a form of commoditization, or pooling of resources for mutual benefit. Is it inevitable that if if open source continues to increase its usage share (as most indicators suggest), that overall revenue in the IT industry will diminish?

You can pose the same question substituting “cloud computing” for “open source”; both together could have a substantial impact.

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3 comments to UK lagging rest of Europe in open source adoption

  • “You can pose the same question substituting “cloud computing” for “open source”; both together could have a substantial impact.”

    Well, cloud computing is largely propietary (unless you see switching from outlook to gmail as a move towards cloud computing which is arguably true).

  • tim

    @Michael sorry I wasn’t clear; I agree that cloud computing is often proprietary but was making the point that it might reduce overall spending in the IT industry.

    Tim

  • Craig

    Looking at how many Australian businesses regard open source software, I’m not surprised.

    I’ve worked for small and large companies who will pay for products like WebSphere RAD Studio instead of using Eclipse on the basis that they get “support”. They often pay for maintenance that they never use. But their IT managers are unwilling to use OSS as they have nobody to blame if they can’t get something to work. It doesn’t stop them from using OSS libraries like Hibernate and Struts though, as they can still blame IBM if RAD studio doesn’t work with them. But it falls on their heads if there is nobody to blame, so they won’t take the risk.

    There was some IBM advertising decades ago with the tag-line: “Nobody gets fired for using IBM”. Many (large and small) companies still have that attitude here, but they replaced IBM with Microsoft.