Savio's post on open source and IT analyst firms got me thinking about how the disruptive nature of open source is affecting not only the business of software but also the industry analyst community. It's well documented that proprietary software companies must begin to evolve alongside the paradigm shift represented by open source but there's less talk about what IT analysts must do to adapt. James McGovern is a big proponent for including open source in the same research as proprietary products a la an open source friendly Magic Quadrant and this is a valid point.
However, what stands out as more critical is the need to ensure that approaches to covering open source technology are aligned to its unique nature. Even if it's a given that strong software products and vendors exhibit similar characteristics regardless of the type of development model employed, there are fundamental differences in the companies and business models built around each. As a result, in order for evaluation techniques, research methodologies and inclusion criteria to remain current against the backdrop of an increasing number of open source players they must adjust.
Savio mentioned that:
"Analysts help customers make purchase decisions. Analysts also educate the market on new technologies."
Yet how are analysts responding to the changing nature of product development as it relates to open source? In order to speak from a position of expertise you've got to grasp the often complex nature of technology. Purchasing decisions are based on proven value propositions and expressing them requires an understanding of why and how technology matters. From a finished product perspective, features are features are features. But a complete portrayal of the vision, capability and viability of commercial open source vendors entails a measurement of the entire equation. A task which points to question marks regarding assumptions about the accepted methods of qualitative analysis.
Is it possible that the prospect of evaluating the size of an install base for an open source product is complicated by reality of the free, unpaid user? What value is attributed the value of open source code? If the dynamics of the software industry have changed such that there never is a $1B commercial open source vendor, does this negatively affect how open source is viewed by Gartner, Forrester, IDC et al.? Views which still hold more than enough sway over how the majority of enterprise CIO's look at open source, by the way. Entiva is able to focus on open source exclusively and that tunnel vision is both good and bad. Yet I'm convinced that it's going to take a widespread adjustment by the larger IT analyst community before open source gets its proper due. I'm interesting in hearing what anyone else thinks...