Even as CIOs accelerate adoption of open source in an effort to trim costs and improve innovation, the world's top system integrators (SIs) have largely played it safe on the sidelines. Accenture, given its close partnership with Microsoft, has perhaps been one of the most conservative SIs when it comes to open source.
Or so it has appeared. Despite a partnership with SpringSource, an open-source infrastructure leader, Accenture's open-source activities have largely gone unnoticed. Even Accenture's Innovation Center for Open Source, a collaboration with Red Hat and other open-source vendors, was more whispered about than promoted.
I caught up with Alex Wied, senior manager at Accenture and head of its Innovation Center for Open Source, and Tony Roby, partner in Accenture's Global Architecture and Core Technologies group, to find out what, exactly, Accenture has been doing with open source, and how the global consulting firm expects to use open source going forward. They collaborated on the answers to my questions below.
Accenture is not the first company that comes to mind when one thinks of open source. After all, you have a joint venture with Microsoft and have been pretty quiet on open source. Is open source alive and well at Accenture? If so, what are the areas of focus for Accenture?
I'm curious to find out why that is the case! Accenture has strong relationships with many leading technology companies--that is what our clients expect.
Open source is growing within both Accenture and our client base. We continue to be substantial users of open source, particularly in custom Java development, and our focus is expanding beyond this space to cover the gamut of open source portals, content management, business intelligence and data management. We also continue to contribute to open-source projects where we expect the results to benefit our clients.
Is open source client-led or Accenture-led? Meaning, are your customers asking for it or are you embracing open-source solutions for your own reasons? If so, what are those reasons? If clients are asking for it, what reasons do they cite?
It's a mixture. There is a tremendous amount of education still to be done regarding open source. We have clients who still have policies not to use open source at all; others who want to use open source wherever possible. But the majority is in between: they are open to using whatever makes most sense from a technical and commercial perspective.
What is clear is that the current economy is driving many who were ambivalent about open source to explore its potential more closely. Regardless of the economic environment, Accenture is a strong open-source advocate and will continue to work with our clients to help them achieve business benefits with it.
Is "vendor lock-in" a serious concern for your clients? If they had to choose between zero cost and 100 percent lock-in or a hefty cost and no lock-in, which would they choose? Or is that even a fair question?
Yes and no. No one wants to be locked in, particularly if that lock in results in ever-increasing expenditure that is disconnected from the value being realized.
But our clients in general look for a balance. "One throat to choke" is high up in the requirements for making major technology investments and is often prioritized over "lock-in." Also, in the context of very large projects, the cost of the software compared to everything else is frequently a small part of the equation.
Nevertheless, we are seeing a noticeable increase in the use of open source, driven largely by the "free" aspect. Few are fooled by the notion of open source being free (as in no cost): lower cost, flexibility and the ability to be supported at modest cost are key drivers of the increased uptake.
Are there particular open-source projects that are of interest to you/Accenture? Which ones, and why?
We do a lot of work with the Spring Framework, so I would say that has historically had the bulk of our interest. That said, we have people active in a number of community projects and we are making increasing use of Alfresco, Liferay, and Talend, to name a few in the technology area.… Read more