When Gartner analyst Robert Desisto wrote this week on the idea that SaaS companies are going to adopt tons of open source I was thrilled. And yet some of the blogosphere seemed to think that meant they wouldn't pay for support and services offered by open source vendors.
Nine out of ten software-as-a-service providers will rely on open source software by 2010 to save money, but the cost savings likely won't be passed onto customers, Gartner says in a new research note.
From an open source vendor perspective, I can tell you that the interest we are seeing from SaaS companies is tremendous. In my case Mule offers the integration/abstraction layer for SaaS to bridge internal applications and data structures (and really if a SaaS architecture is not service-oriented the vendors are going to have serious problems) and Galaxy provides the governance and lifecycle to manage the services. (Disclosure: I am CEO of MuleSource)
But that's just one example--If you consider that Adobe is using Alfresco as part of its online PDF product or that MySQL powers a great many SaaS applications and that both of these companies make money as open source providers I think it shows there is a great opportunity.
SaaS has become an integral part of the delivery and consumption of software. But. SaaS companies are no different than any other open source consumer. They initially use the software because it's accessible for development and as they move through their development cycles they decide if they need the benefits of a relationship with a company or project. And, if as this article mentions, users are concerned about patent infringement then SaaS companies (or anyone for that matter) can engage to eliminate this risk.
The trend of SaaS companies adopting open source is good news for open source developers and vendors as there is a larger base of users on the software. What we really need is for SaaS vendors to start giving things back, be it code, documentation or even the endorsement of the software they are using.
Disclosure: I work for MuleSource, an open source company