October 7, 2009

Europe Leads OSS Adoption, China Rising Fast

The latest results from the Actuate 2009 Open Source Survey are about to go public, and while it comes as little surprise that European companies lead the world in terms of open source software deployment, the fact that China is poised to overtake the Europeans on this field may cause some double-takes.

That was just one of the big takeaways from the California-based Actuate's fourth annual survey, which polled 1,500 IT managers, developers, and c-level executives to determine the general health of open source software in business. This is the first year China was included in the survey, joining the UK, US, Germany, and France.

Among the European countries surveyed, France was the clear leader, with over two-thirds of French respondents (67.0 percent) reporting they are using open source software. Germany followed with 60.6 percent, and the United Kingdom with 42.1 percent. The United States trailed in open source adoption among respondents, at 41.0 percent.

100709-fig-1.jpgIt's not all bad news for open source in the US: when queried if the benefits of open source outweigh the inhibitors, 56.8 percent agreed with that statement, while only 8.4 percent disagreed, almost a 7X difference. That a majority of US businesses may be feeling that open source obstacles are far below the benefits is definitely a tipping point.

That's especially true considering the so-called inhibitors are likely just perceived problems. Leena Bengani, Director of Corp Communications from Actuate, indicated that among the obstacles cited were "inadequate documentation and a perception of a lack of support." (Emphasis hers.)

The biggest perceived benefit of open source software was no license costs, but China However access to source code was uniquely given a 72.6 percent rating by Chinese respondents. That rate, coupled with economic conditions in China, Bengani explained, could make a big impact on China's place in open source software.

Because this was the first year Actuate surveyed Chinese respondents, the firm chose to target participants in an Eclipse BIRT forum. This is a community that is very familiar with Actuate, Bengani said, so any statistics about adoption rates have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The value placed on access to open source code, however, is something that tells an interesting story, Actuate believes.

China is currently the fourth largest software market in the world, Bengani said, and right now nearly 100,000 programmers graduate each year into a market that pays them a mere $10 an hour. Bengani stated that these cultural and economic factors explain why Chinese developers and managers are very keen to get their hands on source code. Access to open code provides a way for Chinese developers to generate innovation at a fraction of traditional software costs.

When asked if China will indeed surpass the other nations in terms of open source adoption, Bengani replied, "It's a matter of time before China is a leader in this area."

Another key finding from the survey, Bengani said, was the increasing role of open source. "Open source is firmly a part of the procurement process."

Bengani also highlighted data that was specific to Linux from the survey. Respondents were given a chance to to list the specific open source technologies they were using. In North America, the top open source product used was Apache (in 43 percent of those surveyed), tied with Linux, also at 43 percent.

In Germany, 64 percent of companies were using Linux, with 63 percent using Apache. For France, Apache was the leader at 73 percent, with 70 percent of respondents using Linux.