Asia not ready for key apps to go open source

Open source traction in region growing, but interest in and adoption of open business applications are still lacking, note market observers.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Organizations in Asia are not as ready to go open source for key business applications, experts in the region say. Over in the United Kingdom and United States, it is a different story with inclination growing, a survey has shown.

An Accenture study of 300 large public- and private-sector organizations in Ireland, the U.K. and U.S. found that over one-third of respondents plan to migrate mission-critical software to open source within a year. The findings, released last month, also indicated that cost is no longer viewed as the key benefit of open source deployment. Instead, quality, reliability and better bug fixing are top drivers.

Although a similar study was not done for Asia, a Singapore-based Accenture spokesperson said that within the region, open source has been gaining traction across all industry segments as well as within the public sector.

In China, for instance, research conducted last year showed that 55 percent of organizations were actively piloting or using open source server operating systems, said Lawrence Goh, Asean executive director for technology consulting at Accenture.

Enterprises in China were also tapping open source OSes for desktops as well as adopting open development tools during their application development process, he added in an e-mail.

The "sweet spot" for organizations in the region when it comes to open source deployment, noted Goh, lies in infrastructure, system software and software to support custom application development. Open source middleware and content management solutions are the areas that have seen the "most deployment in production", he added.

However, compared with their global counterparts, Asian enterprises are not as ready to bank on open source for business-critical applications, said Goh.

"The majority of our clients [in Asia] that use open source are still looking at application platforms and development tools rather than higher value chain business applications," he pointed out. "Globally, we are seeing stronger evidence of the move to mission-critical applications in both the public and private sector."

Concurring, John Brand, Springboard Research's vice president of research, noted that the analyst firm has "seen very little uptake" of open source at the business application level. "Enterprise open source adoption centers around operating system platforms, development frameworks, tools and utilities, and some software infrastructure like Alfresco for enterprise content management.

"There are some exceptions, like Sugar CRM for customer relationship management and some enterprise resource planning-styled applications," he said. "But many of these are actually closer to frameworks than actual business applications in their own right."

Business intelligence, he noted, is an area "that is capturing some attention in the open source market because it lies somewhere between being an application, a development framework and a set of tools and utilities for reporting and analysis tasks".

While growth has been "far slower" at the business application level, it does not mean that business-critical apps are not running on open source, only that "the applications themselves still tend to be more proprietary commercial packages delivered on top of open source platforms", Brand explained.

Many mission-critical apps, he added, are already deployed on open source, but very few applications themselves are open source.

Red Hat's experience also suggests that mission-critical environments are increasingly turning to open source.

Daniel Ng, director of marketing at Red Hat Asia-Pacific and Japan, said in an e-mail that open source adoption in Asia has grown by "leaps and bounds" over the last two years as a result of an increase in open source skills and the availability of tools.

"Open source has been receiving tremendous reception in enterprises because it has proven to be robust, scalable and secure, which are key requirements in operating a mission-critical environment," he noted, adding that major enterprises such as the Tokyo Stock Exchange are tapping Red Hat Enterprise Linux to run their mission-critical applications.

For open source to further proliferate in the enterprise application realm, organizations must factor in governance and "properly address the challenges of versioning, support and integration", said Accenture's Goh.

"The adoption of open source will improve as organizations learn to manage all open source software in their enterprise with proper planning and good governance," he said.

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