Open source gains favor in Asia

Over 76 percent of companies in ZDNet Asia survey deploy open source apps. But analyst says most businesses still don't have policies governing such adoption.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

Open source is gaining favor among organizations in Asia, where one enterprise is finding it easier now to manage such environments, compared to several years ago.

DHA Siamwalla, a stationery business in Thailand, is an avid business user of open source. IT director Danupol Siamwalla, told ZDNet Asia via e-mail, DHA has been using open source technologies for the past seven to eight years.

"At that time, few people in Thailand knew about this concept, so we had a tough time starting it," Danupol said. "We decided to create a research and development (R&D) team to follow up on what was going on in the open source world."

Encouraged by the many success stories the R&D team picked up from around the world, DHA decided to adopt Linux and MySQL.

And the Thai company is just one of several hundreds in the region that have jumped on the open source bandwagon, according to the ZDNet Asia IT Priorities 2008/09 survey.

The online poll revealed that 42.7 percent of respondents have deployed Internet applications such as FileZilla, Firefox and Opera, which were the most popular category of open source deployment.

Source: ZDNet Asia IT Priorities Survey 2008/09

Conducted on 722 IT decision makers in August 2008, the survey also determined that 39.9 percent of respondents use open source networking server platforms and programming languages such as Linux, Apache HTTP Server and PHP.

The third-most common, at 33.7 percent, open source deployments are database and storage management tools such as Aperi and MySQL.

According to the survey, 23.1 percent of respondent organizations do not use any open source application or technology.

Pending widespread adoption
Roman Tuma, Asia South director of software practice at Sun Microsystems, noted that Gartner estimates that 90 percent of the world's companies will be using open source software by 2012.

"Our view is that in the developing world today, the use of such software is ubiquitous," Tuma said in an e-mail interview. "Companies across India, China, Eastern Europe, South and Central America are dominantly using open source software to create enormous wealth."

According to Brian Prentice, Gartner's research vice president of emerging trends and technologies, the research firm conducted a recent global user survey that revealed lower total cost of ownership, low or zero license cost and lower total cost of support, as the top three reasons for using open source software.

Tuma said there has been an "overwhelming number" of open source projects "designed to solve problems, deemed too expensive or difficult to solve with proprietary technologies--from meeting a tough budget, to automating a new process".

"Rather than fight the trend, progressive CIOs figured it was delivering real benefit [and is] something to explore more fully," he added.

Enterprises typically begin by replacing proprietary desktop applications for browsing, e-mail, file-sharing and print services, with open source equivalents, said Tuma. "We now have widespread acceptance of open source-derived applications in areas like Web server, collaboration, messaging and virtualization," he said

Danupol noted: "At first, DHA used Linux as the platform for its e-mail and Internet gateway. With the huge success we had with these two applications, and the acceptance by our staff, we decided to go even further."

DHA then migrated about 80 percent of its IT infrastructure onto the Linux platform.

Confidence in open source also spurred DHA to use open source for mission-critical applications.

Danupol said: "Our salesforce automation tool used across 100 sales departments throughout the country runs on Linux and MySQL. This is a mission-critical application because if the software fails for more than two minutes, we will have problems with incoming orders. We cannot afford to lose that."

He added that with open source, DHA does not have to deal with any vendor lock-in and is able to achieve better integration of applications the company uses.

"We like to understand the technology more, not just by using it, but also by modifying it so it fits our organization's needs," Danupol said. "We need to reap the performance of our hardware and tune it to its optimum capabilities."

DHA dedicates three technical teams, each with specific roles, to work on open source. The first team is responsible for R&D on open source technologies and provides support to the organization. Another team focuses on the development framework such as the development language, techniques and tools. The third team looks at programming and coding of applications to provide the necessary functionality.

Why others don't
Gartner's Prentice said, in an e-mail interview, that some organizations are still reluctant to adopt open source because they are unable to find a particular product with the required functionality to meet their needs.

"This is less an objection about open source in general, but more about specific products and projects and where they are in their maturity cycle," he said.

Other concerns revolve around community-based support and development models, Prentice said. "And there are still issues related to legal indemnification."

One of Gartner's biggest concerns, the analyst noted, is that most organizations do not have policies governing the proper use of open source software.

"In many cases, it seeps into the organization from lower levels of the IT department without due consideration for things like indemnification," he said. License management is a challenging area for organizations to deal with, given the sheer number of different types of licenses and complexity of terms and conditions companies must adhere to, he added.

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