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Issue of June 2005 

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Open source

Growing slow but steady

Open source has been slow to pick up in the enterprise segment. Here is a look at what India Inc. plans to do with open source software in the present fiscal. by Anil Patrick R and Shivani Shinde

There is no clear-cut roadmap for open systems. It is largely limited to smaller applications

Many Indian organisations have already made considerable investments in open source, as the Infrastructure Strategies (IS) 2005 survey reveals. Going forward, adoption rates will grow, slowly yes, but steadily nevertheless.

Sanjay Sharma
Head - IT, IDBI Bank

The widespread use of open source operating systems (primarily Linux) for core applications is still far away. However, Linux is being used in other enterprise applications (such as messaging, databases and so on). For example, IDBI bank runs its IVR and phone banking solutions on open source software. The bank is also in the process of implementing Oracle HRMS on Linux. According to Sanjay Sharma, Head - IT, IDBI Bank, "As of now, there is no clear-cut roadmap for open systems. It is largely limited to smaller applications. Therefore, organisations are trying out open source in a phased manner."

Mapping Linux

If Windows is favoured by many, Linux is slowly making inroads on the server front and it is already used by 39 percent of surveyed organisations.

Executive Summary
Growing slow but steady

Despite what the nay sayers try to preach, there is no denying the fact that open source is slowly carving out a niche for itself. While it is still far from the enterprise core, it is surely heading that way.

Power Pill

Open source if implemented right can provide business benefits comparable to any of the traditional closed source options. Start with non-critical applications and move upwards.

Linux is on an equal footing with Windows 2003 server (both OSs rack up 39 percent of respondents as users with possible overlaps where both are deployed in the same organisation). Refer to Figure: Existing server infrastructure to see how Linux fares vis-à-vis competing OSs.

Linux is most popular in the telecom vertical with 67 percent of organisations having deployed it. BPO and oil/power follow with adoption rates of 54 and 50 percent respectively.

One of the main reasons for choosing Linux is the ongoing shift from Unix or proprietary server platforms. Many organisations are moving to Linux as an alternative Unix platform that runs on off-the-shelf hardware. Says Arun Gupta, Senior Director for Business Technology, Pfizer, "Linux provides significant savings over conventional Unix machines. There has been an upward movement in Linux adoption. In most cases, it is not replacing Windows."

Linux follows Windows 2000 with 32 percent of respondents opting to invest in it this fiscal. The Figure: Planned server infrastructure investments represents the planned Linux investments during 2005-06.

Linux provides significant savings over conventional Unix machines

Linux is popular in the telecom vertical where no less than 83 percent plan to invest in it during 2005-06. The pharmaceutical/ chemical and services segments follow with 39 and 38 percent respectively planning to deploy Linux this fiscal. Red Hat remains the preferred Linux server flavour with 89 percent of organisations that intend to deploy Linux naming it as their distribution of choice. Linux will see increased adoption this year.

The road ahead

Research highlights
  • Linux is used by 39 percent of the surveyed organisations.
  • The telecom sector is the biggest user of Linux at present with two out of three survey respondents from this sector having deployed it.
  • 83 percent of telecom organisations plan to invest in Linux during 2005-06.

Exciting times lie ahead for 64-bit RISC hardware and Unix operating systems with Sun open sourcing Solaris. IBM's open source strategies also show promise.

64-bit Linux has been around longer than 64-bit Windows. The edge that Linux has over Windows (since the launch of AMD's Opteron processor in 2003) promises to be more prominent now. The Lintel (Linux on Intel) platform is quite strong on the server front. 64-bit Lintel-based servers will help cement open source's gains in the enterprise server market.

Cut to the application

Open source applications have also made their presence felt quietly in the enterprise. It is necessary to stress that many of these applications are not just for the Unix/Linux platforms. Many popular OSS (Open Source Software) packages are available for Windows as well.

Some of the foremost OSS applications are the Apache Web server, Tomcat application server, the initiative, the MySQL open source database and PostgreSQL open source database initiatives. Recent entrants to this league include Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail client and the Firefox browser. Open source ERP and CRM packages are also available.

On the security side, there are several open source applications such as firewalls and IDS (Intrusion Detection System) that are popular with enterprises. Firewalls based on ipchains and IDS software such as Snort are widely used by enterprises.

Possible roadblocks

If Windows is favoured by many, Linux is slowly making inroads on the server front and it is already used by 39 percent of surveyed organisations

The biggest setback to the adoption of open source software in enterprise is the existing mindset—both from the technology standpoint as well as the business or user side of things. This has to be circumvented if OSS deployment in an organisation has to succeed.

Arun Gupta
Senior Director for Business Technology, Pfizer

Proper evaluation of the various software options and the functionality must be done before deciding on a solution. "The main considerations that come into play for an open source system to be considered are organisational considerations, application requirements and application vendor support," explains Sanjay Sharma.

The risk factors associated with the deployment-parameters such as availability of required skill sets/support for the application, possible standardisation or interoperability issues with existing or planned systems, ease of use, security issues, ongoing costs, cost effectiveness and service levels must be considered.

Once this evaluation is over and the requirements are met, it does not matter if the application is open or closed source. However, many of the enterprises err on the side of caution and overlook open source applications altogether. This might lead them to losing out on cost-effective deployments.

NM recommends
  • Linux is a good option for thin clients in large-scale data entry applications and call centres.
  • Shifting from Unix to Linux-based servers can provide cost benefits without compromising on performance.
  • Consider open source applications during the evaluation process.
  • Open source OSs and applications can be useful if licence management is an issue.
  • User training is crucial for better acceptance in the case of open source applications.

Anil Patrick R can be reached at
Shivani Shinde can be reached at

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