Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

United We Stand? Exploring the Willingness to Cooperate Amongst Open Source Service Providers

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

United We Stand? Exploring the Willingness to Cooperate Amongst Open Source Service Providers

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The adoption of Open Source Software (OSS) in organizations has experienced an increasing uptake in the last decade (Ven & Mannaert, 2008). As reasons for organizations to use OSS are mentioned: cost effectiveness, improved flexibility, expiration of maintenance, availability of support through both software vendors and service providers, independence from software vendors, increased technical requirements, increased interoperability, security aspects and improved reliability (Ghosh & Glott, 2005). Probably the most important of these reasons is the independence from software vendors which means there is no or limited vendor lock-in (Pavlicek, 2000; Raymond, 2001; Wichmann, 2002b; Goldman & Gabriel, 2005). Vendor lockin implies that it is very hard to switch to other software and/or service providers due to high switching costs or the usage of legacy and non-standard software that is available only through the network of one vendor. Because open source software is normally based on open standards and open interfaces (Varian & Shapiro, 2003) it becomes easier to migrate to different software products. Normally communities evolve around open source software that then adapt and further develop the applications and services. Although users of open source software are not dependent on a single vendor or service provider to deliver updates with new functionality, in practice an emotional binding with one supplier still seems to exist.

This growing market presence of OSS results in a growing number of companies that provide services, support and certification around open source applications. Contrary to the reasons that are found for end-user adaptation, the motivation of these software providers to open sourcing their offerings is mostly based on internal considerations (Wijnen-Meijer & Batenburg, 2007) and based on market position, the capability for product innovation (or lack thereof) and the degree of customer independence. This seems to be supported by Cusumano (2004), who describes several product characteristics that may be relevant for the decision of open sourcing such as (1) the fundamental difference between intended audiences: enterprises and home users, (2) the difference between niche and mass audiences, and software with a horizontal or a vertical functional scope and (3) the market position of a software product. This can be leading, complementary or following. Also some software providers start with using open source software internally because of its perceived cost effectiveness (Grand, Krogh, Leonard, & Swap, 2004) before considering open sourcing their own offerings. Finally governments are an important trigger to vendors to provide open source software due to the value they give open source software for its conformance to open standards that help to ensure accessibility of governmental information (Varian & Shapiro, 2003).

To bridge the gap between the motivation given by end-users versus software vendors and service providers on why to adopt the open source paradigm, Rijke (2005) suggests that open source software vendors and service providers should cooperate in a more structured way to provide improved flexibility, maintenance, availability of support, increased technical requirements, increased interoperability, improved reliability and higher quality to end-users. This suggestion is based on the fact that a large majority of the open source vendors and service providers are small office and home office companies. Contrary to the numerous studies on the reasons for OSS (Ghosh & Glott, 2005; Wichmann, 2002a), very little research is available on the cooperation between organizations and what the triggers for such cooperation are in the OSS domain. The study reported in this paper therefore tries to find an answer to the question: Are organizations within the open source domain willing to cooperate with each other to improve (amongst others) the maintenance, support, reliability and quality of open source services and software? …

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