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Companies buy open source because it's better

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European enterprises are adopting open source software on the grounds of quality and flexibility, rather than merely considering it "good enough" because it is inexpensive, according to a new survey from research firm IDC.

Besides confirming the widespread use of open-source in important corporate deployments, the survey challenges many received notions about open source in business, said IDC analyst Bo Lykkegaard.

The study, snappily entitled Western European End-User Survey: 2005 Spending Priorities, Outsourcing, Open Source, and Impact of Compliance, found substantial levels of "significant" open source deployment in the 625 companies surveyed, all of which had more than 100 employees. Twenty-five percent said they had significant open-source operating system (Linux) deployments - the other three options were limited deployments, running pilots or having the software under consideration.

That, however, was outstripped by the proportion with significant open-source database deployments, at about 33 percent, according to Lykkegaard. Databases, rather than operating systems, now seem to be leading open source into the enterprise, and could pave the way for more open source, he said. "Companies are increasingly talking about open-source 'stacks', giving you a full open-source infrastructure to run applications on," he said. An example is the LAMP stack, he said - Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP or Perl.

Despite the press they get, open-source development environments such as Eclipse didn't make a significant showing in the survey, Lykkegaard said.

Open source is often portrayed as a low-cost commodity, with its emphasis on standardisation. Proprietary companies such as Microsoft, with expensive R&D efforts, have argued that open source development replicates existing ideas rather than innovating. But the survey found that the industries perceiving software as the most important to their ability to compete - such as telecos, which rely on software to provide their core services - also had the highest rate of open-source adoption. Other industries with high open-source adoption included financial services and business services.

Conversely, industries that treated software as a commodity were less likely to have open-source deployments.

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