This week in San Francisco, the Open Source Business Conference unveiled its sixth annual Future of Open Source Survey. A self-selecting survey, its results very much reflect the interests of its sponsors, with the mere 740 respondents participating this year representing a 60 percent increase over the number who responded to last year's survey. All the same, the trends revealed in the survey provide some insight into what "influencers" are thinking.
Of those surveyed, 62 percent indicated that open source software represented more than half their software deployment, while 32 percent indicated more than three-quarter of their software was open source. This trend has continued steadily over the years, and I see no reason to expect a reversal; indeed, the survey responses delineate a continuing trend towards open source over the next five years.
What really stood out to me, though, was the reason open source is being deployed. While the top reason historically was lower costs, the market has been steadily maturing; last year's survey put a freedom from vendor lock-in as the top reason for deployment. This finding was repeated again this year, and I feel confident now that the market is composed of buyers who understand the mechanisms by which open source delivers value to the enterprise.
This indicates a higher-level understanding than just "save money." Yes, there's money to be saved, but not just by vendors offering lower prices that result from slipping license fees. The fact that "avoid lock-in" is now a higher priority than "save money" doesn't mean buyers want to waste money. Rather, it shows an understanding that sustained, buyer-controlled savings are the result of exercising liberties: flexibility of deployment, flexibility with costs, control over the software lifecycle, and above all the flexibility to negotiate with vendors because the "freedom to leave" that true open source solutions permits is intact.