Three recent reports agree about one thing: Open source can save enterprises up to 30% over proprietary alternatives in areas such as office applications, servers, content management systems and databases.
So open source saves the enterprise money, what else is new? Is the appeal of open source simply a matter of dollars and sense? Will this be enough to keep the momentum going strong? What else do open source applications have that will keep open source in the limelight?
"Purely from a business standpoint everyone wants to save money … the success of Dell says that business people the world over want to save money," said Charles King, an independent analyst based in San Francisco. "I think from a philosophical standpoint there is also a sense of being in control that seems to be resonating."
Bill Claybrook, founder and president of Maynard, Mass.-based New River Marketing Research, said for many users the appeal boils down to choice and flexibility as much as cost savings.
"Most of the IT managers and CIOs I talk with are really tired of being locked in," he said.
Claybrook said many vendors, like Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc. and Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc., are offering proprietary operating systems and applications in open source form.
King said applications running on Linux provide a new upgrade path for businesses that don't wish to get locked into a pattern of forced upgrades.
"To me, the major benefit is that it offers a way to take the upgrade path out of the hands of a very large entity that needs to sell a new iterations of its product to remain successful and puts it back in the customer's hands," he said. "Anyone who has been using IT solutions for a considerable amount of time has been stung at one time or another by a software upgrade."
King also explained that over the past six to nine months he has seen signs that the market is ready to move to new generations of hardware, and that this bodes well for Linux. When a business finally makes the move to go out and get new servers and desktops, virtually every one of them will have some kind of Linux migration strategy in place, he said.
"Frankly that creates an opening to talk about something other than Windows," King said. "They've been the 800-lb. gorilla of the market, stomping on any other vendor that got in its way, but so far they have not been able to stomp Linux."
One reason why Redmond has been unable to "stomp" on Linux, as it could with other competitors -- like OS/2 -- is that Linux was first successful in the corporate data center. King said Microsoft has the desktop sewn up and will continue to be the desktop of choice, but it is interesting that Linux was a success story in a place where Microsoft really wants to be.
"Linux is better proven in the data center as an operating system than Microsoft at this point, and that's got to be really irritating to Microsoft," King said. "Their migration path has a very big pothole in front of it and it's a bunch of crazy Linux programmers."
Both Claybrook and King agreed that the longer Linux stays around and is seen as viable and growing, the more Microsoft's argument that it's a plaything and not ready for prime time are undercut.