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  • Showing posts with label open source. Show all posts
    Showing posts with label open source. Show all posts

    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    Why Is Open Source Not More Successful for Enterprise Applications?

    Although open source software now completely dominates some categories of software, this has not been true for enterprise applications, such as ERP or CRM. What is it about enterprise applications that makes them so resistant to open source as a business model? 

    My friend and fellow-analyst Holger Mueller has a good post on Why Open Source Has Won, and Will Keep Winning.  Read the whole thing. In Holger's view, which I agree with, the battle between open source and propriety software is over, and open source won. In just a short fifteen years or so, it is hard to find any commercial software vendor attempting to build new platforms based on proprietary code. He writes:
    Somewhere in the early 2000s, Oracle dropped its multi-year, 1000+ FTE effort of an application server… to use Apache going forward… that was my eye opener as a product developer. My eye opener as an analyst was in 2013, when IBM’s Danny Sabbah shared that IBM was basing its next generation PaaS, BlueMix, on CloudFoundry… so, when enterprise software giants cannot afford to out-innovate open source platforms, it was clear that open source war-winning. As of today, there is no 1000+ people engineering effort for platform software that has started (and made public) built inhouse and proprietary by any vendor. The largest inhouse projects that are happening now in enterprises, the NFV projects at the Telco’s, are all based on open source.
    Holger's observation is certainly true for software at the platform or infrastructure level of the technology stack. All the examples that Holger cites, and nearly any other that he could cite, are in these categories.

    But what about enterprise business applications, such as ERP or CRM. One of the best examples is SugarCRM, but even there, it lags far behind the market leaders. Open source ERP is in even worse shape. Players such as Compiere (now owned by Consona), Adempiere (a fork of Compiere), Opentaps (an ERP and CRM system), xTuple (formerly, OpenMFG), and Odoo (formerly, OpenERP) barely move the needle in terms of market share. Where is the Linux of ERP?

    Since the early 2000s, I have been hoping that open source would catch on as an alternative to the major enterprise apps vendors, such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, and others. I would like to see open source as a counterweight to the major vendors, putting more market power on the side of buyers. 

    So, why hasn't open source been more of a contender in enterprise applications?  I can think of three factors, for a start.
    1. Open source needs a large set of potential users. But enterprise applications do not have as broad a potential user base as infrastructure software. Although the ERP market is huge, when you break it down by specific industries, it is small compared to the market for, say, Linux.
       
    2. Enterprise apps require a large effort in marketing and sales. Buyers put great weight on name recognition. But open source projects do not generally show much interest in the sales and marketing side of a business. If a project is truly community-developed, who is interested in marketing it? As a result, very few people know what Odoo is, for example, let alone, how to acquire it.
       
    3. Open source is labor-intensive. It is great for organizations that have time but no money. My impression is that open source ERP adoption is somewhat more successful in some developing countries, where there are very smart people with good technical skills willing to spend the time to implement a low-cost or no-cost solution. Here in the U.S., such companies are rare. Most would rather write a check. 
    Ironically, open source is very popular among enterprise application providers themselves. Software vendors, whether cloud or on-premises providers, love open source and many now build nearly all of their systems on it, because it scales economically. Yet, when they sell their own enterprise applications, the last thing they want to do is offer them as open source.

    So, why hasn't open source been more successful for enterprise applications? Perhaps readers can come up with other reasons. Please leave a comment on this post, or tweet me (@fscavo), or email me (my email is in the right hand column).

    Update, Jan. 18: My friend Josh Greenbaum has posted a lengthy response on his blog, here: Open Source, Enterprise Software, and Free Lumber. Please read the whole thing, as it is quite thoughtful.

    Josh agrees that open source software (OSS) has been more successful for infrastructure components than for enterprise applications. But he goes off in a different direction to argue that it's not right for commercial software vendors to make money from their use of OSS. I have two basic disagreements with Josh on this point. First, most OSS licenses (GNU, for example) mandate that creation of software incorporating the OSS must be provided under the same OSS license. So commercial software providers go to great lengths to ensure that their developers do NOT incorporate OSS into their software products. Now, OSS providers CAN incorporate OSS in their own operations (e.g. use of Linux or MariaDB in their provision of cloud services), and they can include OSS as a supported platform.. In both cases they are not violating the terms of the OSS license.

    My second disagreement is that Josh objects to OSS on what I consider to be more or less moral grounds, that it is wrong for others to make money from the free contributions of others (a "sucker's game," he calls it). Putting aside the fact that commercial software providers (think, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and hundreds of others) are the largest contributors by far to OSS, no one is holding a gun to the head of any individual developer forcing him or her to work for free. If OSS contributors find it acceptable for others to make free use of their labors, who am I to say that it is wrong for others to do so? The fact that OSS has been wildly successful (at least for infrastructure-like components) tells us that there must be something in the economic model of open source that works to benefit both contributors and users of OSS.

    Update, Jan 18: Some email correspondence from my friend Vinnie Mirchandani, led me to send this email reply, lightly edited here:
    Yes, the large tech vendors, such as Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc., have benefited enormously from open source, but they also contribute enormously to open source projects, because it is in their best interest to do so. You know that IBM contributed key IP from its decades-old work in virtualization. Microsoft open sourced Visual Studios Code, and it is now one of the most widely-adopted development environment. Oracle, IBM, and others contribute to Linux because it ensures that it runs on and is optimized for their hardware. They all contribute because it is in their self interest to do so. Moreover, senior open source developers, especially those who have commit-privileges, are in high demand and are often hired by these same large tech companies. So the whole open source movement has become a virtuous ecosystem where everyone benefits.

    Update, Jan 19: Over at Diginomica, Dennis Howlett riffs on our discussion in, Why you should take notice of the open source in enterprise suckers conundrum. On my question of why open source has not been more successful in enterprise applications, he points to the lack of real marketing and sales efforts. He writes:
    I’d go one step further and as a nuanced view of Frank’s (2) element. In most cases, enterprise software is sold, it’s not bought. What I mean is that troupes of vendor reps, marketers and other hangers on line up to convince you about taking on one or other solution. In the open source world you are ‘buying’ not being sold. There is no real money for marketing and sales. You either take it (for free) and then work on it yourself, or you enlist the help of specialists who both understand your processes and the software code itself. And despite the early success of Salesforce as a cloud vendor from whom you bought applications at the departmental level on your credit card, the majority of enterprise deals are sold.

    Saturday, May 30, 2015

    Oracle Sued by Customer over Source Code Access

    Oracle was hit by a customer lawsuit earlier this month in conjunction with its MICROS Systems business, which Oracle acquired in 2014.

    The dispute involves access to the source code for the MICROS Open Commerce Platform.  Aero maintains that when it licensed OCP, MICROS (not yet acquired by Oracle) knew that Aero intended to build customizations and new features to integrate with OCP.

    Aero alleges that MICROS personnel represented that Aero would have ongoing access to OCP source code in order to build its customizations and maintain them going forward.

    Although we do not yet know all of the facts, there is a lesson in this case for companies seeking to become digital businesses.

    Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog:
    Oracle Sued by Customer over Access to MICROS Source Code

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Open Source Not a Panacea for Cloud Infrastructure Decisions

    Cloud IaaS Open Source
    When it comes to cloud computing, do open systems win out over proprietary standards? My view is, perhaps in theory, but cloud computing--specifically public cloud infrastructure--has bigger problems right now than whether it's built on open source. Furthermore, open source cloud infrastructure providers have obstacles to overcome. 

    I'm participating in an online video debate on October 29, hosted by IBM's Smarter Computing program, on "the pros and cons of open computing when it comes to cloud, big data, and software defined environments." This post outlines part of my viewpoint on this subject.

    What's Not to Like about Open Source?

    One of the problem in debating "open source" is that it is difficult to argue against the word "open" as a concept. For example, we all like to think of ourselves as open-minded, not close-minded. We admire top executives who have an open-door policy--have you ever heard of a manager with a "closed door policy?" In home-buying, sellers like to point out the open floor plan. Who ever advertised a house as having a "closed" floor plan?

    So also, in computing, open just sounds better. Moreover, when it comes to cloud infrastructure, open source projects such as OpenStack and CloudStack have admirable goals, such as the ease of porting computing workloads from one cloud provider to another, promoting competition, and escaping the dreaded vendor lock-in.

    The Larger Issue: Adoption

    But, to me, it is premature to debate about whether open source cloud infrastructure is better. The larger issue today is the small percentage of corporate IT organizations that embrace public cloud infrastructure at all. In our Technology Trends survey at Computer Economics last year, we found that less than 10% of IT organizations worldwide have any use or plans to use public cloud infrastructure. Moreover, of these, only half claim use it, or intend to use it, for production systems.

    If they are not using public cloud for production systems, then what are they using it for? Our survey found interest in public cloud for software development and testing, disaster recovery capabilities (such as backup and recovery), or for archiving older data.

    In addition, I question some of those production uses of IaaS. Discussions with associates who advise data center managers confirm my suspicions. One associate, who works a lot in the entertainment industry, pointed out that one popular use of cloud infrastructure is in rendering animated film. In this case, animators require enormous amounts of computing power and storage to render even a few minutes of animation. As it turns out, cloud infrastructure is perfect for such a use, as it frees the IT organization from having to maintain those high levels of computing resources, which are only used sporadically. Furthermore, the risk is low. If the cloud provider goes down in the middle of a rendering job, the animator can simply resubmit the job. Nothing is lost.

    But when it comes to production systems, such as accounting systems or royalty processing, these same entertainment industry decision-makers shun cloud infrastructure. It is not that they want to keep such systems on-premises, as witnessed by the fact that they have been outsourcing their data centers to managed services providers for years. As my associate remarked, "CIOs don't want to be in the data center business any more." But, rightly or wrongly, they are cautious about entrusting production systems to a cloud infrastructure.

    Open Source Not a Panacea

    Although the goals of OpenStack and other open source cloud projects are admirable, they may be a solution in search of a problem.
    • Specifically, migrating workloads between competing cloud providers may not be as big a deal as open source proponents claim. Customer demands are already forcing competing cloud providers to recognize and support each other's APIs. For example, some members of the OpenStack community are urging support for Amazon's APIs.  If OpenStack fully goes this route, application systems written for Amazon's cloud will be able to be deployed on an OpenStack cloud without a lot of migration effort. Even VMware--the vendor with the largest stake in so-called private clouds--supports Amazon APIs and is also a contributor to OpenStack. Therefore, as far as I can tell, portability is not a major issue.
    • Second, so far, it does not seem as if proprietary cloud providers are using their proprietary standards in order to extract higher fees from customers. Quite to the contrary, cloud infrastructure is a very competitive market. Whatever concerns IT decision makers have about public cloud infrastructure, one thing they cannot complain about is its cost. Leading cloud providers are not raising prices--rather, they are cutting prices, in some cases many times a year. IT decision makers are not holding on to their on-premises systems because they are concerned about the cost of public cloud--they are focused on risk. This was also a key finding in our Technology Trends survey.
    If a cloud provider wants to overcome enterprise IT buyer concerns, it should focus on reliability, security, privacy, and offer a well-staffed support group. Many of the OpenStack providers are doing exactly that. It may well be that OpenStack providers, such as IBM, H-P, Dell, Rackspace and others, will be successful because of their value-added services, not because they embraced an open source infrastructure.

    Incumbent Infrastructure Providers Have an Edge

    Furthermore, proponents of open source cloud infrastructure may be underestimating the advantage that on-premises infrastructure providers have in moving their customers to the public cloud. Although, as discussed above, IT leaders have concerns about moving production workloads to the public cloud, one thing that does appeal to some of them is the ability to move seamlessly from on-premises system instances to cloud instances.

    This is the so-called hybrid cloud infrastructure. CIOs may adopt a hybrid cloud strategy in order to move non-critical workloads out of the data center, freeing up system resources (e.g. the animation rendering application discussed above), or to "burst" to the cloud during period of high demand for system resources (e.g. during a major advertising campaign that strains an in-house e-commerce system).

    Now, which provider has the advantage in helping IT organizations set up hybrid cloud capabilities? The provider that is already serving the on-premises data center (Microsoft, VMware, or Oracle, for example) or the one that would like the data center to replatform its on-premises systems to match the infrastructure of the provider's cloud infrastructure (e.g. OpenStack, CloudStack)?

    The answer is obvious, which is why Microsoft, VMware, and Oracle are all providing public cloud services that require very little change to the customer's on-premises infrastructure. Unless an IT organization is building a data center from scratch, it is unlikely to want to standardize its internal infrastructure on a completely new technology--open source or otherwise.

    Advocating for Cloud and Open Source

    Nothing I've written here should be taken as an argument against cloud computing or open source. I've been blogging on these subjects since 2002 and consider myself as an advocate of both. In my view, one day nearly all systems will be delivered via cloud computing, and open source software has proven itself to be a viable business model for a variety of software categories, especially for lower levels in the technology stack. But in the case of public cloud infrastructure, I don't see open source cloud projects as dominating the market any time soon.

    Update: The video of my IBM debate is now online. You can watch it by clicking the image below.

    http://www.spreecast.com/events/whats-next-for-it-open-source-debate

    Related Posts

    The Inexorable Dominance of Cloud Computing
    Cutting Through the Fog of Cloud Computing Definitions

    Photo Credit: Flickr, followtheseinstructions
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