SOURCE: EXCLUSIVE COMPUTERWORLD SURVEY OF 159 IT PROFESSIONALS, MARCH 2011
from Olliance Group took a look at the service’s operations
and after three days came back with some shocking news: The
military branch was already using Linux and other open-source
applications in 75% of its divisions, and in half of those, open-source use had already reached mission-critical status.
Though the open-source train had left the station without IT
management onboard, the consulting firm was able to determine that the various divisions using open source were seeing
an ROI of 300% to 700%. But the military branch still had no
governance plan over the use of open-source technology. Needless to say, “they have one now,” says Andrew Aitken, a senior
vice president at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Olliance, which was
acquired by Black Duck Software in 2010.
It’s happening in the commercial world, too, he says. With
the proliferation of open-source applications, and with vendors
moving from licensed models to software-as-a-service models,
open source is in a state of rapid maturation. What’s more, “in
today’s large distributed environments, [companies] do lots of
their own developing across the globe, and they outsource a lot
of development, so they really don’t know what their partners
Continued from page 26
may be using. So it’s taking a while
to develop the critical mass to get
the attention of people who have
the knowledge, experience and responsibility to develop ROI and TCO
models,” Aitken adds.
So it comes as no surprise that
42% of 130 open-source users responding to a recent Computerworld
survey reported that they aren’t
measuring the return on investment
or total cost of ownership of their
open-source projects, and 19% said
they don’t know if they’re measuring
those things. And more than two-thirds don’t have a written governance plan (see charts at left).
“In many cases, open-source users
are basing their entire assumption
for TCO on acquisition costs,” says
Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner.
“They assumed that in the long run,
it will be cheaper,” but they don’t
take into consideration hardware
costs, training, consulting needs and
the ramifications of downtime if a
“Most of [our clients] aren’t
measuring or don’t care,” Aitken
says. “It’s simply not in their lexicon
to look at open source from an ROI perspective.” They are more
focused on creating business value than on saving IT dollars.
But others say companies can’t be sure they’re creating business value without running the numbers first, and having a governance plan is one of the best ways to get a grip on open-source
costs — and keep the company from unwittingly getting tied up
in legal battles over the use of proprietary software.
hidden Costs, hidden Value
Whenever an organization adopts a new technology, there’s
always a leap of faith that it’s going to be cheaper, better and more
secure. “Then it invariably gets justified backwards,” says Stephen
Walli, technical director at Outercurve Foundation, a nonprofit
organization that works with commercial companies to facilitate
their participation in open-source development projects.
Calculating ROI can be easy if you buy an open-source package
like Red Hat Linux. But in practice, it’s more difficult because
there are so many open-source apps and so many usage models.
“People are learning that there are other benefits,” such as risk
reduction or the ability to build a website without creating code
Continued on page 30
most of [our clients] aren’t measuring or don’t care. It’s simply not in their
lexicon to look at open source from an ROI perspective.
Andrew Aitken, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, OLLIANCE GROUP