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Open-source software has clearly entered the mainstream and is being strongly adopted within the enterprise, which is underscored by the fact that many CIOs are now implementing it as policy within their organizations, Raymond Zachary, a senior analyst and open-source practice head at The 451 Group, said Aug. 8.

In a media conference call ahead of the annual LinuxWorld conference and exposition in San Francisco next week, Zachary said attitudes have changed toward open source, “and we are seeing not only a bottoms-up adoption, but also a top-down initiative.”

“We are now also seeing CIOs starting to look at implementing open source as a policy within an organization and not as an after-the-fact reaction to its in-house development use,” he said.

A number of large IT vendors have embraced open source, which is helping spur momentum, he said, while “mixed source” is becoming the norm, where proprietary technology is run on top of open-source infrastructure software.

With regard to motivation for the adoption of open-source technologies, Zachary said surveys have shown that lower cost, avoiding vendor lock-in and better security are the leading reasons.

“Cost benefits continue to be a primary motivation for the use of open source, and this will help drive demand and mean we as analysts will increasingly have to monitor the business models around this and their appropriateness,” he said.

Also, going forward, analysts will be watching to see whether there is a backlash from enterprises and other customers if the cost savings they expected are not delivered, he said.

Research has shown that while support from the vendor is important, enterprise customers are willing to get support from multiple sources if that is where the best solution is delivered, Zachary said.

For his part, Al Gillen, vice president of system software at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., said he expects to hear a lot about virtualization software at LinuxWorld.

Click here to read about how Virtual Iron and XenSource are nibbling at VMware.

“This is a hot topic and is on the minds of customers who want to know how this affects them and their products,” he said.

The players in this market are developing the right levels of interoperability for the different hypervisors in the market, which would allow interoperability across different virtualization layers, he said.

The impact of virtualization and how customers can use this is top-of-mind and a topic that will get much attention at the show, he said, adding that the issue of how virtualization affects licensing has not yet been addressed in any significant way by the industry.

Novell has said it will not charge extra to cover the number of Linux instances that get run on a virtualized server, while Microsoft has announced that the license for its Datacenter Edition of Windows Server “Longhorn,” when it ships next year, will give users the right to run an unlimited number of virtual instances on one physical server, “but that comes at a price,” Gillen said.

Read here about how Microsoft and XenSource have joined forces to aid server virtualization.

Other issues that Gillen said he expects to be addressed at LinuxWorld are how the hypervisor layer is going to affect the infrastructure and application layers.

But the biggest unanswered question is how these multiple operating systems will be managed in a virtualized environment, as well as whether these tools will be integrated into the operating system or offered by third-party vendors.

In fact, two of the show’s keynotes will deal with virtualization.

On Aug. 16, Guru Vasudeva, chief enterprise architect at Nationwide, a Fortune 100 insurance and financial services company, will detail how the company embarked on a journey to aggressively exploit virtualization and Linux to address the growing software and data center costs, to simplify the environment, and to significantly improve the provisioning process.

Today, the Nationwide Web site and 10 other mission-critical applications run on a virtualized Linux environment, which is expected to contribute more than $15 million in savings over the next three years.

Peter Levine, CEO of XenSource, an innovative new software vendor in the virtualization technology market, will use his keynote address on Aug. 17 to describe where the market is now and where he sees it going. XenSource is taking an open-source approach in attempting to meet market demand.

With regard to the battle between XenSource and VMware around virtualization technology for the Linux kernel, Gillen said he believes that, going forward, the battle will not be around the virtualization layer, as this will be integrated into the operating system and hardware.

Oracle is “losing patience” with XenSource and VMware. Click here to read more.

Rather, it will be about the managing and provisioning and tracking of all this layered software through its full life cycle, “and that is where the biggest competitive and financial battle is likely to come from going forward,” he said.

The 451 Group’s Zachary said that virtualization is a new area of innovation and the open-source vendors are still playing catch-up to the larger, proprietary ones in this regard.

IDC’s Gillen said he also expects there to be a lot of traction at the show from Novell around the recently released SLES 10 product.

“This will be the coming-out party for that product, but there will also be a lot of traction around the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. The question that will be asked is whether this is ready for prime time,” he said.

“It is a very powerful product and offers corporate customers many of the features they need, but the question is whether corporations will move from their installed base of products to a new product line,” he said.

There will also be a lot of talk at the show about the maturing of open source and Linux and how these technologies are being leveraged differently, with companies now creating and delivering products and tools that allow users and ISVs to build appliances on open-source technologies that do not have any hardware attached to them, he said.

On the partner front, Matthew Lawton, director of IDC’s worldwide software business strategies group, said open-source adoption in the partner community is happening and is important, with many of these companies now starting to make money.

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