Alfresco Survey Polls Enterprise Stack Practices

Respondents said they are using a mixture of open source and proprietary solutions

The second Alfresco Open Source Barometer survey found a general trend toward the use of mixed open source and proprietary software in the enterprise.

The survey was conducted between July and December of last year and polled 35,000 Alfresco community members who either use Alfresco's open source enterprise content management product or who had signed up at the Alfresco community member Web site.

Results from the second survey tended to mirror the first one, except that the sample size was more than three times larger this time. The report charted community members opinions about the open source stack, asking questions about the use of operating systems, databases, application servers and portals.

Microsoft Windows was the OS that was most used by respondents. However, the response shifted when it came to deploying applications. Respondents favored using Linux (51 percent) for deployment. Even though Linux was the main OS choice, respondents still preferred to evaluate those applications first using Windows (41 percent), typically using a laptop to do so.

Respondents also indicated their preferences among the various flavors of Linux. Ubuntu and Red Hat Linux OSes were the leading choices at 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

Those respondents using Windows tended not to be Vista users. Vista use trailed at just two percent, as compared with 63 percent using Windows XP and 28 percent using Windows 2003.

A new question asked in this survey concerned the use of virtualization products. VMware was the dominant choice at 61 percent. Microsoft Virtual Server was the next choice according to 16 percent, and others trailed badly.

Respondents typically used Alfresco's software for document management, Web content management and collaboration.

In a finding that supported the trend toward "hybrid" use of both open source and proprietary solutions, the majority (66 percent) of Alfresco community members used Microsoft Office to generate content. The open source productivity suite, OpenOffice, was used by 24 percent.

"We don't tie ourselves into OpenOffice," said Dr. Ian Howells, Alfresco's chief marketing officer. "The critical thing is to have an open approach to the stack."

Not only do the Alfresco community members want to use whatever they wish in the enterprise stack, mixing open source and proprietary solutions, but they also want the ability to change things too over time, Howells said.

"What we see now is a migration to a mixed hybrid stack of open source and [proprietary] enterprise software," he explained. "People want the choice to change at every level. They want choice to change over time. They want choice to change certain apps within the firewall."

Howells provided another example, apart from the survey results, as to why battles over open source vs. proprietary solutions in the enterprise stack are far from concluded.

"[Microsoft] SharePoint is crystallizing people's views in [terms of] choice," he said. "SharePoint forces you to use Microsoft Windows, SQL Server, .NET and Portal. And to a certain extent, you're not going to use OpenOffice with it. And some people like that top-to-bottom stack and some people want to have a choice. Most of the corporations we talked with -- they still want to use Oracle [and] BEA [solutions]. And it's making people think, 'Do I want to be tied into one stack or do I want to have a choice.' And I think that's the big thing that's been happening over the last 12 months, and [will happen over] the next 12 months."

Open source follows a different track than proprietary software when it comes to adoption, according to Howells. Certain open source products tend to become market leaders, and the runner-ups get forgotten. The survey results seemed to back up that contention, with MySQL holding a clear lead in the database category according to 60 percent of respondents. Apache Tomcat took the lead among application servers with 70 percent of respondents favoring its use.

Open source evolves differently compared with proprietary solutions, Howells explained. You get one clear leader for each part of the stack very quickly.

"Geoffrey Moore who wrote books such as "Crossing the Chasm" and "Inside the Tornado" -- he talks about the network effect -- that if you look in the infrastructure, it's in everybody's interest to not have 20 different options," Howells said. "[It's in the interest] to have one clear alternative. And that's what happened in open source and it comes out in the study as well."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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