Open source integration remains 'elusive'

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Open source integration remains 'elusive'

Gartner believes Open Solutions Alliance faces uphill struggle.

Organisations such as the newly formed Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) face considerable challenges in their efforts to promote the improved integration of open source business systems, experts have warned. 

Analyst firm Gartner said that open source integration remains an "elusive goal" despite the ongoing efforts of groups including the OSA, the Open Source Development Lab, the Apache Software Foundation and the Eclipse Foundation.

The warning comes after the 14 February announcement that a group of technology vendors had banded together to form the OSA to promote interoperability among software business solutions.

However, Gartner stated that the creation of the OSA is potentially significant because it represents a first attempt to establish a communitywide approach at expanding open source community efforts toward business solutions.

"We believe that this effort is a laudable, even critical, step towards making open source software truly competitive with software from traditional closed source vendors such as SAP and Oracle," said Gartner research vice president Mark Driver.

"Open source application vendors have had some success, but have yet to make a significant dent in business application markets.

"This is partly because business solutions provided by established and entrenched market leaders are often provided through tightly integrated suites.

"Individually, smaller open source efforts cannot hope to compete with the breadth and depth of these enterprise suites."

Gartner believes that open source vendors must turn to the momentum and critical mass of the larger community if they are to become fully competitive enterprise class business system providers.

The analyst firm argues that a community-based effort will provide cleaner integration across products and a more coherent licence structure across the elements of a composite open source application platform.

"The creation of the OSA will not in itself guarantee the success of open source efforts among business solutions, but we believe that the concept is critical," said Driver.

"Similar efforts have led to success in infrastructure efforts. But the OSA will be challenged by the tight control that business application providers have traditionally exercised over intellectual property."

Gartner believes that attempts to promote interoperability at the 'business' layer, such as the Open Applications Group, have met with limited success.

"The OSA will focus on establishing business-level interoperability standards. Whether this specific effort will garner enough support to create the necessary momentum for success remains to be seen," said Driver.

Gartner has other concerns about the OSA. The group professes to be an 'open source' alliance, but at least one of its founders' current products does not, in Gartner's view, meet the definition of open source because it restricts redistribution, and its licence is not certified by the Open Source Initiative.

Driver added that other OSA members follow dual-licensing strategies that further muddle the meaning of 'open source'.
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