It seems like every time I turn on my computer there is a new article or press release being published about the increase in adoption of open source software and the role it is playing in global markets. In August 2012, Gartner published a press release titled, Gartner Says Cloud, Mobility, and Open Source Will Drive Application Development Market to Exceed $9 Billion in 2012.
The release describes growth in the application development market driven by several factors including open source software, noting that this is so, “especially as open source becomes a key element of the software quality landscape, beyond the developer level.” Gartner goes on to predict that, “at least 70 percent of new enterprise Java applications will be deployed on an open source Java application server by the end of 2017.”
So this all got me thinking. If the adoption of open source grows at the pace predicted and spans new industries and verticals each and every day, how are those who are just getting their feet wet planning for the costs that come with the “free” software? (The Free Software Foundation says; To understand the concept, you should think of "free" as in "free speech" not "free" as in "free beer.")
Better yet, do they know full well what those costs are?
Using Google Trends* I examined the following four open source search phrases in an attempt to see how these would compare in two different segments. First, the "All Categories" section of Google Trends, which aggregates searches from across the entire Internet. Second, the category "Computers & Electronics" which, by my own assumptive admission, would be the category to provide some insight into the trends of the "early adopters" of open source software.
The Four Phrases I Examined:
As the masses become more acclimated with open source software, I was curious to see if there would be more searches dedicated to one phrase over the other, across the two segments.
The Search Results
"Computers & Electronics"
In the "Computers & Electronics" category "open source cost" historically has had far less share of search compared to the other three terms than that of the "All Categories" segment. The search trend leans heavier toward the terms that describe specific line items where costs lie (scanner, support & security.) The interesting thing here is that although "open source cost" has stayed consistent over time, because Google Trends provides normalized data*, "open source cost" has actually closed the share of search gap over the last two years as more and more of us try to understand the costs associated with the process of successfully and securely using open source software.
In the "All Categories" examination, "open source security" and "open source support" run almost parallel with each other over the course of time while the delta between "open source scanner" and the previous two phrases was far greater than that of the "Computers & Electronics" category. Also interesting to note, "open source security" is the only phrase of the four that has realized a considerable up tick in share of search in both "Computers & Electronics" and "All Categories" as compared to the other phrases since the beginning of 2012.
In the "Computers & Electronics" category, "open source support" and "open source scanner" are tied far more closely than they are in the examination of "All Categories." And going a bit deeper, "open source scanner" has even surpassed "open source support" several times in comparative share of search since the beginning of 2011.
So what's the "Net Net"?
Understanding that open source software adoption and success is a process compiled of many components, some of which require financial investments, I thought I would take one more look, across the same two segments, examining the relationship between the phrases "open source cost" and "open source process."
The conclusion for me here was that those whom are part of this targeted, assumingly "early adopter" group, "Computers & Electronics," have impressively closed the share of search gap between "open source costs" and "open source process." Conversely, those in "All Categories," where there may lay the "laggards" in the adoption of open source software, are still not assimilating the inner workings of "open source cost" and "open source process" as closely as they (hopefully) eventually will.
As much as open source software is a "free" software, the successful implementation of open source software into your environment requires that we embrace the process of using open source software and realize that there is a legitimate, ongoing fiduciary responsibility to invest in the open source process, and not just view expenditures as an after thought.
The same way the cost of driving a car is free.
You still have to purchase the machine (hardware), you still have to purchase the gas to make it run (expertise & support), and you still have to buy insurance (scanning and security), so that you are complying with the requirements of driving a car.
The physical act of driving a car is free the same way using open source software for whatever your heart desires is. The desire to drive and so too the desire to use open source software, as with many desires, have costs associated with them and a process that applies to achieving your desire correctly, efficiently and successfully.
Does the cost of the car, the gas, and the insurance keep us from driving? No. In fact in many cases the cost drives (no pun intended) us to look for more economical solutions. Gartner even states in their press release that, “limited budgets and economic conditions compelling enough to focus on cost reduction, also fuel the use of open source software in many development projects.”
It was interesting as I was doing this research, I came across a “trending phrase,” “free scanner.”
Ironically, I never came across a trending phrase, “free car insurance.”
What obstacles are you encountering as you plan for the cost of open source heading into 2013?
*About Google Trends
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