What SAP can teach you on how to adopt open source

The two big lessons: Use approval processes and consider encouraging developer contributions to open source projects

SAP, arguably one of the remaining enterprise software vendors to accept and use open source in its products, recently made news by announcing a broader open source strategy. More important, SAP explained how it planned for the greater acceptance of open source components in its projects. Enterprise IT decision-makers can learn from SAP's approach to open source adoption.

Risk, a four-letter word in IT
As IDG News Service's Joab Jackson reports, SAP faced two key related hurdles in trying to grow its usage of open source components in its products: executive acceptance and developer education. Not surprisingly, these very same issues were also highlighted in a newly released Accenture survey of open source adoption among 300 U.S. and U.K. companies with more than $500 million in yearly revenue. Accenture explains:

Despite a very encouraging picture, some organizations still remain hesitant. The biggest challenge, mentioned by 35 percent of all companies, is around training developers how to use open source. Furthermore, lack of senior management support appears to be a key reason given for not using open source software among organizations that have looked at it but ultimately chosen not to use it.

[ InfoWorld's Savio Rodrigues explains when you should open-source your internal apps | Keep up with the latest open source trends and news in InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president of open source and Linux, recently detailed 10 questions he is frequently asked by customers considering open source. Here are a few of the key questions Bob typically faces:

  • Of the hundreds of thousands of open source projects, how do I tell which are the good or bad ones?
  • I need a 5- to 10-year plan for installing enterprise software. Which open source projects and companies can I count on to guarantee support for the software for that long?
  • How do I avoid making a really bad, possibly job-ending, mistake when moving to open source software?
  • Will I have legal or license problems if I use open source projects?

Sutor tends to speak with C-level executives and IT decision-makers. These audiences are often very concerned about risk mitigation and want to ensure that open source decisions do not add undue risk to the enterprise.

Open source approval processes mitigate risk
Training developers to appropriately use approved open source projects and products in an enterprise software project helps address executive and decision-maker concerns surrounding open source adoption. This is true whether the software project will be used just internally or could be made public.

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