85% of companies use open source software (OSS), and the remaining 15% will begin in the next 12 months, according to a Gartner study. Ownership cost, cheaper development, and the ease of implementing new IT projects and software initiatives are the main reasons for the adoption. The software is used most often for customer service, enterprise integration, finance and administration, and business analytics. OSS is also being increasingly used for sales and marketing, customer analytics, field service, ERP and CRM solutions

Not being tied to one particular vendor is seen as a big advantage of OSS. Other reasons for using open source is getting products to market faster and avoiding complex procurement rules and procedures.

While the survey found the use of OSS widespread, 69% of respondents do not have a formal policy for implementing and maintaining OSS. Gartner believes that this will lead to Intellectual Property problems.

“Just because something is free doesn’t mean that it has no cost,” says Laurie Wurster, research director at Gartner. “Companies must have a policy for procuring OSS, deciding which applications will be supported by OSS, and identifying the intellectual property risk or supportability risk associated with using OSS. Once a policy is in place, then there must be a governance process to enforce it.”

Several commentators, like Matt Assay, have already taken Gartner to task for this conclusion.

Governance and licensing are the biggest problems with adopting open source, says Gartner. "Understanding when and how an OSS alternative may be used is a frustrating process, especially when there are so many license types and forms from which to choose," says Wurster.

"As time goes by, many of these concerns will be addressed, but this continues to be a slow process. Increases in OSS popularity and in the rate of OSS adoption will drive the required changes."

By Mark Alvarez