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If everything is free in the Land with No IP - not TCP/IP, but rather intellectual property - then it stands to reason that IT managers and programmers in China would love open source software.

And according to the fourth annual open source survey done by Actuate, a maker of open source business intelligence and reporting tools, Chinese programmers do indeed love open source.

This is the first year that Actuate polled programmers in China as well as in the UK, North America, France, and Germany, as it has done in past years. Some 80.3 per cent of the IT shops polled in China said that they deployed open source technologies at their businesses, and 72.6 per cent said that access to source code was important to them. In Germany, only 41.4 per cent of sites said having access to source code for the software they deploy at their companies was important, followed by 39.9 per cent in North America, 36 per cent in France, and 35.2 per cent in the UK.

As for the penetration of open source software at companies, the French are pretty far behind the Chinese, with 67 per cent saying they have deployed open source software for at least some of their workloads, followed by Germany, with 60.6 per cent, the UK with 42.1 per cent, and North America with 41 per cent.

The Actuate poll and its accompanying study, which is not yet posted online, is based on information culled from 1,427 senior IT managers or staff through an online study that Actuate conducted in May. The company gathered data from financial services, telecommunications, and manufacturing companies as well as from various public sector organizations.

There is no trend data for the Chinese market yet, being its first year in the report, but in the UK, the proportion of companies saying that they are deploying open source software in their businesses is on the rise at a steady - albeit slow - pace, and different industries are showing different adoption rates. Overall, penetration of open source has stalled at around 46 per cent of the companies polled in the UK, up from 38.8 per cent in 2005. In the public sector, some 52 per cent of IT shops said that vendor independence was the major benefit of open source, up from 37 per cent in 2007. (This was the only other UK-specific statistic, and it is not particularly useful.)

The most detailed information in the study comes from North America. While 41 per cent of those polled in the U.S. and Canada said they were already using open source stuff, 12.6 per cent said they were monitoring products but not yet evaluating, and another 11.8 per cent said they were not thinking about open source and had no plans to adopt. Another 13.9 per cent threw their hands up in the air and said they didn't know, while 11.4 per cent said they were evaluating open source products but had made no decision. The remaining tiny slices of the pie were for those in the process of adopting their first open source software (5.6 per cent of those polled) or planning to adopt it in the future (3.7 percent).

As you might expect, 61.1 per cent of telecom companies said they had already deployed open source software in their application stacks, compared to 40.3 per cent of financial services companies and 39.3 per cent of organizations in the public sector.

Across all industries in North America, Apache, at 43.2 per cent of respondents, was the most popular open source program deployed, followed by Linux (42.9 per cent), Tomcat (31.5 per cent), MySQL (30.7 per cent), Mozilla (30.2 per cent), PHP (22.1 per cent), JBoss (18.1 per cent), and Eclipse (27.2 per cent).

So where is this open source software going? Some 73 per cent of respondents in North America said they use open source software in application development, followed by 58.6 per cent for server operating systems, 52 per cent for databases, 41.4 per cent for middleware, and 33.6 per cent for "enterprise applications." About a quarter of the companies said they were using open source desktop operating systems at least somewhere in their companies, which is higher than you might expect.

As for why they are deploying open source products, 58.1 per cent of companies in North America said that having no license fees was an important factor in their decision, followed by 51.1 per cent who cited "flexibility" (presumably to mix and match and integrate what they want), and 42 per cent who like independence from vendors. Not being locked into the Microsoft stack was cited by 36.5 per cent of those polled as being important, and only 39.9 per cent said that access to source code was important. ®

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