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VNU Net: Gartner debunks open source myths

May 22, 2000, 20:16 (15 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Leyden)

By John Leyden, VNU Net

Research company Gartner has debunked the myths surrounding open source development and support that it believes are leaving many enterprises apprehensive about embracing the technology.

In a strongly worded research note, Gartner has refuted what it identifies as five main myths. These include that no one controls open source software and that few people have access rights to integrate code.

Nikos Drakos, an analyst at Gartner, said: "Contrary to common perceptions, open source development is often tightly controlled. In addition, the availability of the source code and the requirement to share modifications promote longer-term viability, reduce the entry barriers for those offering services and support, and discourage 'Balkanisation' [when vendors deliberately build in proprietary extras to make their offerings attractive enough to buy]."

First on Gartner's hitlist is the myth that no one controls open source development. The researcher said this view ignores the fact that open source products are tightly controlled either by a single individual or a small developer group, as is the case with Linux.

The idea that anyone can change open source software so that it will eventually becomes unstable, also get short shrift. Gartner argues that few people have access rights to integrate code and that enterprises are to select older versions have code that has been proven to be stable.

Gartner said the history of Apache web server development, where many in the original group left to form Netscape, gives lie to the myth that open source development is dependent on key individuals.

"In fact, that chance of a popular open source software product continuing to be supported after the departure of key individuals is much better than the survival of a proprietary product after the demise, acquisition or change in the product strategy of a commercial vendor," argues the research note.

Unlike Unix, no one stands to gain from a split in the source code of Linux so splintering and Balkanisation is unlikely to happen, said Gartner.

Only the idea that open source support is not up to scratch is given any credence.

Usenet resources and some telephone support exist but "this type of support, however, is much less acceptable to corporate users who are looking for accountability as well as maintenance and technical support".

Colin Tenwick, Red Hat's general manager of European operations, said that research companies are reversing their position in light of strong uptake of Linux in the market.

"Many analysts first took a position on why the open source model wouldn't work, then they said it was only useful for quirky things on the web. In a year's time they'll be explaining how Linux is worth looking at for enterprise applications," said Tenwick.

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