Support issues top OSS concerns

Worries about training and support pose biggest barrier to open-source software adoption among Asian businesses, Sun executives say.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Worries about support issues is the number one barrier to the adoption of open-source software by organizations in the Asia-Pacific region, say senior executives from Sun Microsystems.

Ian Murdock, who founded Debian Linux and is now Sun's chief open-source platform strategist, told ZDNet Asia in an interview today that the most commonly heard feedback from organizations has to do with support issues.

"Typically, users want to know what kind of support and training they can get by going with your system," Murdock said. "They want to know how to make the transition from traditional closed-source operating systems and software to open source."

Winning over business users by assuaging fears of support issues will have a hugely positive impact on developers, too.

Matt Thompson, Sun's senior director of technology outreach and the Sun developer network, explained that often, open-source adoption is dictated by the large enterprises dominating the IT industry. It is only when there is business buy-in will the developers find resources to work with the open-source platforms.

Thompson said: "India's open-source developer community is the fastest growing and second-largest worldwide for us. But much of the country's IT ecosystem is based on what large employers think about open source.

"It's not direct adoption, so developers may not control their own adoption [levels],"he added.

Cultural and language differences also present barriers to open-source adoption in Asia, though "microcommunities" foster innovation, said Murdock.

"A lot of open-source communities are English-centric, which may pose a problem in areas of the world where English is not a predominant language," he noted.

However, Thompson said those barriers will dissolve eventually, because of Asian developers' growing proficiency in the English language.

"More universities are choosing to teach upper-level computer courses in English to close the gap between developer communities in Asia and globally. Thailand being a good example of a country which has done that extensively," said Thompson.

Murdock added: "For a community to form, it has to relate to something that already exists. The developers learn from the global community, but the innovation happens locally when they take something back and build it--the global community then ties this together."

Murdock spearheads Project Indiana, Sun's effort to package the OpenSolaris operating system into a "distribution" so as to win over developers from the large and growing Linux pool.

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