Although most European firms have clear open source adoption plans ¿ even for mission-critical environments ¿ usage of open source applications is still in its infancy in Europe. In a recent series of reports, Forrester Research identifies the different barriers that block mass adoption of open source in the enterprise.

¿Many European firms have implemented open source solutions and plan to expand their usage.¿ says Richard Peynot, senior analyst at Forrester Research. ¿43% of companies we surveyed are piloting or considering open source, 31% claim a complete rollout, and 58% plan to extend their spending on open source products. However, despite Microsoft¿s renewed postponement of the introduction of `Longhorn¿ (its successor to XP), which might trigger investment decisions, some fears and unsolved questions remain.¿

The survey shows that users¿ top concern is lack of service. Companies continue to fear risks around technical support and long-term maintenance of their open source-based solutions. According to Forrester, users are looking for a sign from vendors, especially from service providers, before triggering wider open source adoption.

The open source market represents an attractive but latent opportunity for service providers to unlock real revenues — if they demonstrate their strategic engagement with open source. To tap into this, Forrester recommends that service providers: fill out today¿s narrowly based service offerings; boost their communication about open source capabilities; and actively lobby inside client and prospect organizations to connect pockets of open source enthusiasm into active influence groups.

However, Forrester also found that the market still needs some triggers to really take off, even though most companies would not hesitate to implement open source solutions in mission-critical environments. Global players are still cautious and are waiting for durable growth and momentum.

¿If end users continue to hesitate, the market risks stagnating,¿ states Peynot. ¿Key triggers to lift the market are Linux on the desktop and significant projects in mission-critical environments. Today, however, the experience of Linux on the desktop is limited to the public sector — for example, in the town of Munich, Germany, and in organizations within the French Ministry of Research. If Linux doesn¿t gain a bigger foothold in the enterprise environment, its future will remain limited.¿

Another barrier to open source adoption lies in a lack of consensus inside user companies. Within every company, different groups show significant differences of acceptance and motivation, which will impact open source strategies and adoption. Gaining agreement and a common view will be a prerequisite for an efficient adoption plan. In particular, IT middle management and business executives need help and education to better grasp and accept open source technologies.

Peynot concludes with some key recommendations for the end user, whose main pains are poor strategy and lack of clear plans: ¿Users need to overcome their fears and manage risk though a clear open source strategy, including careful vendor selection. They should: select open source components and their deployment areas; make a business case for each open source project; avoid fragile startups; and add specific selection criteria for open source.¿