Only around five percent of large IT organisations currently have fully developed open source procurement policies, Gartner analyst Brian Prentice said in a session at the research firm's IT Symposium in Sydney. By 2010, he expects that number to rise to 74 percent.
"It's not about if you're dealing with open source; it's about when you're going to deal with open source, if you're not already doing it again," he said. "Over the next four years, the realisation that this stuff has value and has a place is going to be there."
In the same time frame, Gartner estimates that open source products will be included in assessments for around 80 percent of infrastructure projects. However, the impact in business applications will be more muted, with just 25 percent of such projects even considering open source packages.
Developing procurement policies for open source can be challenging, Prentice said, particularly with regard to legal issues. "Don't be surprised if lawyers are a key element of your procurement process," he said.
Uncertainty over the application of software patents to open source will also increasingly be used by existing commercial vendors as a selling point as they fight to retain market share. "Microsoft is pretty much selling indemnification" rather than new software features, he said.
Prentice said that "flaming Linux bigots" continued to present a challenge to the adoption of open source. "People with strong ideological views are good for the community, [but] at the same time that ideology is prone towards hyperbole and religious debates around things. Those don't help us make sound business decisions."