The thing about a bad economy is that it's not really bad for everyone, or every business. In fact, some companies thrive during bad times-and that seems to be the case for open source vendors, and open source middleware in particular.
In a recent Red Hat News piece, Red Hat's middleware team contends that the troubled economy translated into wider adoption of JBoss Enterprise Middleware in 2009:
...many organizations re-evaluated how they have been running their operations and IT functions or building and integrating applications, including their use of traditional proprietary middleware. We believe that this re-evaluation contributed to the continued adoption of JBoss Enterprise Middleware throughout the enterprise that we saw in 2009. What was different and significant last year when compared to other years, is that more organizations made large strategic commitments to open source middleware than ever before.
GEICO, Office Max and Sherwin Williams were among the customers that added JBoss Enterprise Middleware to their architecture last year, according to the piece. The article lists several reasons why these companies opted for open source over proprietary solutions, but of course the primary driver seems to be cost-and, in fact, the piece links to a free Forrester study on the total economic impact of adopting Red Hat's JBoss Enterprise Application Platform.
Of course, Red Hat isn't the only open source middleware company benefiting from the economic crisis. This week, open source data-integration and MDM vendor Talend announced record revenue growth in 2009, when it more than doubled 2008's revenue. The customer base grew by 140 percent over 2008, with more than 50 percent of new customers coming from Fortune 1000 companies.
A recent 451 Group survey confirms that the economy did, in fact, play a hand in this new wave of open source acceptance. Nearly 47 percent said they were more inclined to open source because of the economic climate. Roughly 48 percent said the economy had no impact-but then again, we don't know how that percentage felt about open source in the first place.
But what might be more significant to those of you considering open source, the survey found that organizations feel open source lives up to its cost-savings reputation 90 percent of the time. Less than 5 percent said it had not met their cost-savings expectations, the 451 Group blog post notes.
The blog post doesn't mention whether the survey looked at middleware adoption separately. You can download a copy of the survey for free, but you have to be registered, and apparently there's a review process (my application is pending).
Red Hat, at least, is gearing up for another big adoption push this year, noting that "it is clear to us that the next wave of open source adoption is in the middleware market."
The article notes that the middleware group will be focusing on the JBoss Enterprise Portal Platform, SOA platform, Developer Studio, the JBoss and Java community and cloud computing.
This week, Red Hat announced that security vendor CA will include support for Web applications and services hosted on JBoss Enterprise Middleware. It's also gearing up for more open source cloud projects, according to Datamation.
So, is open source middleware right for you? First, you've got to decide whether open source in general is a good option for you. Those issues have been argued ad naseum elsewhere, but I think IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard best summed up that issue in a January post:
The ultimate point here is that if you're not really willing to be part of the larger community, then open source may not be for you. Companies that can effectively be part of the open source community will definitely gain a strategic advantage in terms of cost and expertise. But if your organization is more about waiting to be serviced by a vendor, then you might find the whole open source experience to be frustrating, even maddening, at times.
Assuming you can embrace the costs and opportunities of open source in general, there are some special issues, specific to middleware, that you should consider. I wrote about them back in 2008, when open source middleware was just beginning to gain traction. You should also read my interview with Craig Muzilla, vice president of Red Hat's middleware products, in which he addresses some of those concerns.
At any rate, if you do decide to give open source middleware a go, then looks like you'll be in good company in 2010.