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Rick Roy, SVP, Customer Operations, CUNA Mutual (Madison, Wis.;  billion in 2004 assets)
Rick Roy, SVP, Customer Operations, CUNA Mutual (Madison, Wis.; billion in 2004 assets)
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Open Source’s Mainstream Future

Once the focus of an underground movement, open source software is on its way to becoming a universally adopted strategy for minimizing costs while maximizing performance.

Open source has earned its place at the table. No longer a software movement, open source has entered the business application space with viable and cost-effective solutions, and it's changing the way firms evaluate, purchase and deploy software.

Traditional open source concerns relating to ownership, integrity and security are being resolved, and many professional services organizations are emerging to support the growing environment. Major software enterprises are responding to open source pressures, by either declaring their assets open or adding open source strategies to their product and service mix.

According to research group Gartner Inc., the majority of mainstream IT organizations will successfully adopt formal open source management strategies as core IT disciplines. Gartner reports that by 2010, Global 2000 IT organizations will consider open source products in 80 percent of their infrastructure-focused software investments. In addition, by 2008, 95 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have formal open source acquisition and management strategies.

In a world where IT must deliver better services for less, open source is a strong alternative. The balance of influence shifts from a monolithic vendor model to customers controlling their own destinies, creating new competitive pressure for vendors. Earning credibility in the operating system and database space, open source business applications are gaining momentum.

These market factors are driving down the total cost of ownership (TCO) for organizations' software expenditures, while significantly increasing development responsiveness and creativity. Along with the cost benefits, open source is gaining significant sustainability among IT organizations. Many companies are adopting open source tools and development to build their software systems today, ensuring a bright future for open source opportunities.

How should your IT organization respond? Assume that open source will be a part of your IT future - sooner rather than later. Investigate an open source pilot experience as one of your high priorities within your R&D. Open source provides freedom and choice. It brings the user's agenda back into focus, and customers can be in the driver's seat with application development. The low-cost, fee-based model permits a "try before you buy" approach, saving significant dollars in exploratory research.

Open Source Challenges

Of course, open source has its challenges. Introducing open source can be disruptive to any organization. Rights and ownership of base code, with specific tailoring, are governed differently, causing concern within an organization. Have your legal staff familiarize itself with pattern contracts that have evolved to ensure your company's interests are protected.

The TCO business case, often the strongest justification for open source, can be difficult if baseline costs are not available. If a broad view of your costs is not available, consider basing the comparison on a selected system for which costs can be determined. Open source subscription pricing and faster distribution through the Internet are powerful benefits.

Concrete successes will create a confidence level for management and can build broader adoption of an open source model. External examples set by large financial services firms, along with well-executed internal pilots, can provide powerful proof.

The strength of open source applications has improved so dramatically that one cannot ignore open source as an alternative solution. The question now is how quickly it will arrive and whether you will be ready.

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