Oracle users concerned with open source support

Oracle customers are taking to open source technologies, but old concerns about support and security remain, a new IOUG member survey finds.

Open source software (OSS) has made big inroads with Oracle customers in recent years, but old concerns over security

and technical support die hard, a new Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) member survey finds.

The IOUG Web survey of 269 members, including database administrators, developers and IT managers, found that one-third of respondents believe proprietary software vendors offer more robust support options than open source vendors.

IOUG president Ari Kaplan said the user concerns about support have to do with consistency. Some commercial open source vendors provide great support options, while others "aren't nearly as good," he said.

The survey also found many companies still harbor concerns over the security of open source systems, but Kaplan says those concerns are more a result of perception than reality. OSS, he said, has a solid track record when it comes to security.

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Over the past five years, open source adoption rates have skyrocketed among Oracle customers, especially at the operating system level. Linux, Kaplan said, is now the No. 1 deployment platform for Oracle's database management system (DBMS). Beyond that, he added, Oracle customers are primarily using open source for so-called "edge" applications like Web hosting and in-house development, as opposed to more mission-critical applications like enterprise resource planning.

"[Open source is] still a little bit on the periphery of the enterprise," Kaplan said.

The survey also found that OSS is most prevalent at smaller companies eager to take advantage of the cost savings associated with the development methodology. According to Kaplan, 57% of respondents from companies with fewer than 500 employees indicated that they use open source in one capacity or another.

Despite these concerns, the open source movement is continuing to pick up speed. A study released Monday by Framingham, Mass.-based researcher International Data Corp. found that use of open source has spread far beyond the Linux operating system.

IDC surveyed 5,000 developers worldwide and concluded that OSS is being used by a total of 71% of the developers in the world and is in production at 54% of their organizations. About half of the developers surveyed indicated that use of OSS is increasing at their organizations.

Oracle has taken notice of the open source phenomenon and has responded by embracing the technology. Back in February, Oracle announced plans to purchase Lincoln, Mass.-based Sleepycat and its Berkeley DB, an embeddable, open source DBMS. Last October, Oracle acquired Finland-based Innobase, the creator of InnoDB, a transactional database technology distributed as part of the open source MySQL database. MySQL competes directly with Oracle's flagship DBMS.

In April, Oracle chief executive officer Larry Ellison floated the possibility of Oracle launching its own Linux operating system. Kaplan said that such a move would be good for Oracle customers because the system would likely tie in closely with Oracle applications and therefore improve the performance of those systems. He added that it would essentially give customers a one-stop shop for their IT needs.

"It would be a good idea for Oracle to develop its own operating system or have a very close partnership with one of the Linux operating systems vendors," Kaplan said.

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