Why Open Source Does Not Fight Back Against Gartner and Other IT Analysts

Executive Summary

  • Open source projects emphasize their product’s capabilities, but they spend little time addressing how IT analysts fight against them.
  • We cover how IT analysts like Gartner undermine open source without repercussions.


Gartner and other IT analysts continually opposed open source projects. This has nothing to do with the technological attributes of any open source project, but the business model of IT analysts, that have them receiving income from both vendors and software and hardware buyers. Open source projects have tiny revenues compared to commercial vendors, therefore there IT analysts have little use for open source projects. For example, in databases, where open source databases have been possibly the most widely used versus other categories of software, there are no open-source databases profiled by any of the significant IT analysts. The effect of this is to skew purchases away from open source projects.

See our references for this article and related articles at this link.

The Strong Requirement to Pay Gartner

The following is a quotation from a person with considerable experience in the enterprise market, and he explains something that is known, but often not published.

It begs the question, are enterprise buyers so willfully blind that if they use Gartner recommendations, for their buying decisions, that they won’t get sacked (just like buying from IBM back in the day!)?

I was already aware of Gartner’s practice to only feature products from vendors that pay. This came to my attention when a DCIM vendor in the UK told me about this about eight years ago, as they had refused to pay. I agree with you that the open-source community should call out the system at every opportunity, please keep sharing articles like this, as I’ll do my bit to open people’s eyes.

When Gartner output is promoted, as we cover in the article How Vendors like Palo Alto Networks Share Illegitimate Gartner Output, the money side of the equation is left out of the conversation. The document produced by Gartner is referred to as “research,” by Palo Alto Networks in the LinkedIn share. But this is ordinarily the case with the vendor.

How the Sharing of IT Analyst Output by Vendors Works

It is a continual practice for vendors who perform well in a Gartner, Forrester, or IDC output to share it on LinkedIn and to get employees to “like” the share.

This is lead generation for the vendor. It helps enrich Gartner or Forrester, and it helps bring revenues to the vendors who can afford to pay the most to the IT analyst (and hence the largest vendors who can outbid smaller vendors), but does it provide accurate information to the buyer?

How Much Did the Vendor Pay to be Included?

The appropriate question is not to accept the IT analyst output as if it is some honest, non financially biased document, but to ask the following questions.

“How much did you pay to be profiled.”


“Were you told that you would do better in the output if you paid more, or that if you did pay more, you would have more access to the analyst, and therefore be able to present your case better?”

Here….Look at The List We Paid to be Included In

Notice that the vendor that shares the IT analyst output calls it “research” but they certainly know that they paid to be profiled, and would have been profiled if they had not paid.

Imagine for a moment trying to get research published, and the following were in effect.

  1. What if you solicited money from every vendor profiled in your study.
  2. And then left vendors out who did not pay, even though they were valid entries.
  3. And then had some vendors pay much more than other vendors (who are larger).
  4. And finally, you told the publishing entity/journal that you refused to disclose any of this information and want the entire thing hidden from readers.

What journal would publish such research?

Finally, when asked about your financial bias, you offered up the contrived excuse that you employed an “ombudsman” as we cover in the article How to Best Understand Gartner’s Ombudsman.

Which all meant that you had been caught lying at least five different ways about the influence of money on your output?

What if it was further found that you employed high-pressure tactics to pressure and borderline extort money out of vendors to have them included in the various output. And that you demonstrated a pattern of overstating how you could improve the marketing and sales of vendors as we cover in the article How IT Analyst Firms Like Gartner and Forrester Overpromise Marketing Exposure to Vendors.

What would all of this due to the credibility of your output?

How Gartner and IT Analysts Get Away With It

The reason that IT analysts and vendors get away with this is that they are not called out for doing it. However, while medium and small vendors rightly fear the IT analysts, open-source projects have nothing to lose. Not only do IT analysts not cover open source, but they actively lobby against its use in oral interactions with clients. They tend to present open source as akin to taking an alien as a bride.

There is a..

“Why would you want to do that?”

..response to their response to the interest in open source.

IT decision-makers who bring up open source are told the following…

“If you use open source, you will never get your budget back.”

This is a real quote told to a room full of Gartner attendees at a Gartner conference. Notice the implication that there is nothing else the IT decision-maker could spend money on, but that one commercial item.

Is that true?

Evaluating Gartner’s Claims Against Open Source

IT usually has far more needs than they can fund, and it is documented in numerous studies that IT departments spend most of their budget in maintaining their previous purchases, rather than meeting new needs.

  1. One system, in particular, the ERP system, has been enormously “effective” and mopping up much of the IT budget of companies around the world.
  2. Therefore, this brings up the question of why wouldn’t the cost savings from open source be applied to other needs?

Are All Cost Savings Immediately Taken from IT Departments?

Let us take the example of the cost savings that come from bringing support internal and canceling support to very overpriced support provided by mega-vendors like SAP and Oracle. Would Gartner also say that this should not be done because the IT department will..

“..never get the budget back.”

  1. This presumes that any cost saving in any area is problematic for the IT department because it means a loss of their budget.
  2. This brings up the question is if there is any current cost expenditure the IT department has, that should be considered due to this fear of budgetary losses.

Is Gartner Making This Up?

It isn’t apparent where Gartner is getting the information to make this assertion that open source is the death knell for the budgets of IT departments. Still, knowing that Gartner routinely asserts without evidence, there is no reason to think that this assertion is based upon evidence.

  1. Recently, upon analyzing Gartner’s output on licensing for S/4HANA, we explained that Gartner wrote to an experienced licensing consultant, and they disputed that Gartner would ever write such a thing. After presenting the Gartner document containing the quotation, they fell silent.
  2. I attended a presentation at a conference hosted by Gartner. The title of the presentation was “SAP Versus Best of Breed.” The presenters were one person from SAP, one person from Gartner and an SAP customer. Is there anything you notice missing? Yes, no representative from a best of breed vendor. The actual presentation had nothing to do with the title, but was mostly a one hour sale pitch by the SAP representative, while the Gartner and SAP customer grinned like Gibbons.
  3. Companies that hire Gartner to help them negotiate with vendors don’t seem to realize that Gartner is already paid so much more by vendors than any one buyer will pay them. This is particularly the larger vendors, that we cover in the article How to View Gartner’s Financial Bias in Favor of Large Vendors. They have spent money to hire and an entity who has greater allegiance to the vendor than to any buyer.

How Gartner’s Advice Reinforces Status Quo Expenditures

What Gartner’s recommendations do is reinforce the current spending pattern of the IT department. This encourages the funding of the status quo within the IT department, which, not coincidentally, are the vendors that pay the most money to Gartner — vendors like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft.

This brings up the question of how Gartner is a source of information on cost management if they receive the most substantial funding from the vendors that do the “best job” of consuming the budget of IT departments while giving the least back.

Gartner’s Claims Against Open Source

In an article titled Open Source in Government is Irrelevant, Gartner VP Andrea Di Maio stated the following:

Academics, researchers, vendors, public officers, politicians have spent zillions of words to articulate the importance of adopting open source to drive down cost, to reduce vendor dependencies, to increase choice, and so forth.

Earlier today I participated in a Facebook discussion with a few esteemed colleagues from academia and industry, and I heard again one of those old oversimplifications that I thought I would never hear again:  switching to an open source product makes you save the whole money you would pay in license and maintenance fees to a proprietary vendor. To be clear, this would mean that, if you stop using Microsoft Office and replace it with Open Office, all the money you don’t pay to Microsoft is money you save (of course net of any transition cost).

Well, does it mean that open source does not need support? You will need to get it from somewhere, be it another vendor or your internal resources. So there is a cost.  This could well be cheaper than what you pay to the incumbent vendor, but in any case one has to go through a detailed and transparent comparison.

Notice how deceptive Di Maio’s argument is against open source. How did Bill Gates become one of the richest men in the world? Well in part, it was establishing a near monopoly in the operating system and the office suite. How Commercial Software Became About Charging Multiple Times for the Same IP. In the case of SAP and Oracle, they receive 85% and 95% margin on their support. What is the margin of support provided for PostgreSQL or MariaDB (alternatives to the Oracle database). It is quite a bit less is it not?

How Di Maio can’t observe the difference in the costs between open source and commercial costs is quite ludicrous. Larry Ellison is worth over $70 billion (depending upon how Oracle stock is doing). Can Di Maio point to a single person in the open source project that is worth even a billion dollars? And Larry Ellison’s fortune would be nothing like this if the US government had not agreed to allow Ellison to walk away with the code for the database that Ellison installed for the US government back in the 1970s.

Di Maio Continues…

How much money do governments spend in office suite licenses, or in operating systems, or in other software products that sit at the lower level of the technology stack? This is the money that some politicians and open source zealots say would be almost entirely saved by switching to open source.

Open source is not only about office suites and lower components.

Everything can be open sourced. One does not have to be a “zealot” to see the wasted in the enterprise software space. Typically the correct term would be a “proponent.” There is no basis for Di Maio to call open source advocates zealots, and what separates their advocacy from commercial vendor advocates like Di Maio is very difficult to see.

Di Maio continues..

Now, this software is almost a commodity. It is software that governments run as much as banks, retailers, manufacturers, utilities do. For this category of software and for most of the infractruture it runs on, the emerging alternative is cloud computing. Why should I bother looking for an email client to replace Outlook and coexist with my newly installed OpenOffice, if I can get email and office suite as a service with somebody like Google at a fraction of the cost and – most importantly – giving up the IT management burden too? Why are we talking about moving servers from Windows to Linux when the real question is why do we need to have our own servers in the first place?

There are at least three things illogical about this paragraph.

  1. First, Di Maio’s article was written in 2009, but eleven years on, Outlook and the Office Suite are still very popular programs. And most enterprise software is still on premises.
  2. Secondly, Di Maio continues to focus on slivers of the enterprise software market. He entirely leaves out of the equation open source databases, open source ERP, and many other software categories.
  3. Thirdly, SaaS vendors or moving applications to the cloud is not related to the question of open source. Salesforce is in the cloud, but it is not open source.

Di Maio continues…

If one took cost optimization as the primary driver for an IT sourcing strategies, open source would find its place and relevance much higher in the technology stack.

I can’t actually tell what this paragraph means. I am not convinced it means anything, but one does not have to “take cost optimization as the primary driver for an IT sourcing strategy.” I am not going to agree to use this convoluted sentence as a basis for any thought process.

Something I have realized reading Gartner, is that their writing often includes a parapraphs of word salads, that are designed to intimidate the reader into turning off their brain and accepting that the author must know more than they do. I see this as the opposite. If a person who has the time, and can’t construct a readable sentence that makes sense, or that after reading it 3 to 4 times I can’t tell what the author is trying to say, that is very likely because the writer is attempting to pull one over on the reader. 

Let us redirect from Gartner’s word salad, and discuss the very obvious benefits of open source.

Open source provides many benefits which includes no license cost, but also license freedom and the ability to customize the code, an advantage that Di Maio leaves entirely unaddressed. No word salad can diminish these advantages.

Di Maio continues…

It would help government organizations reduce the dependency on those vendors,(emphasis added) very often local, that have developed bespoke systems for them and get paid dearly for maintenance, adaptation and – often – to resell the same or a similar system to another authority.

The problem is that Di Maio is leaving out something significant.

Since When Does Gartner Oppose IT Waste?

Those companies that create a dependency in the government are the same vendors that pay Gartner. Gartner is paid to get those government organizations to continue to waste money on commercial vendors and on commercial vendor consulting. Furthermore, Gartner routinely produces paid for content that is designed by commercial IT entities to directly get customers to engage in wasteful spending. One example I just recently analyzed was How Gartner Helps Vendors Co-Opt New Things They Are Unrelated To. This was used as lead generation for Equinix, to try to get prospects to consider Equinix’s lagging data center business as critical to the public cloud. Again, any ridiculous proposal is something Gartner will enthusiastically endorse of the price is right.

Therefore, it is impossible for Gartner or for Di Maio to make any argument where he or Gartner support waste. Gartner and Di Maio support waste, as they are paid to support the wasteful commercial vendor model. Gartner can be hired by any vendor to write any fake study for money. Notice our analysis of this work on their part How Gartner Distributes Press Releases On HANA. And it is not only Gartner, Forrester and IDC work the exact same way. And not coincidentally, they all criticize or emphasize open source.

Di Maio continues…

If governments want to fight the open source battle, they have to do so where they get more than marginal benefits: this is in the vertical application space. Anything below will be – sooner or later – a candidate for commoditization.

Why are the benefits only marginal?

Let us revenue some of the benefits of open source.

  1. No License Cost
  2. Modifiability
  3. Improved Enterprise Software Competitiveness
  4. Less Commerical Vendor Cooption
  5. Removing License Restrictions of Commercial Software
  6. Auditable and Public Code

The first two benefits are self explanatory, so let us begin with explaining item #3.

Advantage #3: Improved Enterprise Software Competitiveness

This is the increase in competitiveness that would come the oppressive control or mega vendors like SAP, Oracle or Info. These are vendors that leverage the sale of applications to turn the customer into an “SAP shop” or an “Oracle shop.”

It is well know that major commercial vendor monopolies have been build around very prominent applications. Oracle built itself from acquisition, primarily due to monopoly profits from its ERP system. SAP did the same with its ERP system. For Microsoft, it was DOS and then the Windows operating system. Vendors ranging from Infor and Epicor engaged in acquisitions in order to copy the monopoly practices of these vendors. Commercial software naturally leads to consolidation. Without commercial software, the overall IT industry would be far more competitive. 

Advantage #4: Less Commerical Vendor Cooption

Open source means less open source theft by commercial vendors. A perfect example of this is the vendor Nutanix that coopt from open source but add nothing back and then pretend to be adding value that they don’t (as we cover in the article Why Both Superconvergence and Hyperconvergence are Hollow Marketing Constructs.

Advantage #5: Removing License Restrictions of Commerical Software

Di Maio presents the argument against open source as if both open source and commercial software have identical license restrictions. They have very different license restrictions. The primary restriction with open source is that you give back your code to the open source project as we cover in the article How SAP Admitted in Court Documents to Copying from Open Source MySQL.

However, commercial licenses are all manner of restriction. For example, SAP has inserted its version of indirect access restrictions, which means you have to pay them if you connect any system to an SAP system. SAP has brought claims against companies for daring to not buy complementary SAP products and this forced purchase of licenses the customer had no intention of implementing, as we cover in the article How Indirect Access Drove S/4HANA Purchases.

Can Di Maio think of an open source project that did this to their customers?

Probably not as most open source goes out on the GNU GPL license, which is standardized, unlike commercial software, where every vendor develops their own license agreement, and which must be reviewed independently before a purchase is made.

Advantage #6: Auditable and Public Code

Governments, in particular, require auditable code.

We cover in the article Why Government Entities Use Open Source Over Commercial Software, which is something pointed out by Amanda Brock and OpenUK that governments should be required to use open source as the IT spend of governments require public disclosure. This means that commercial software violates the public nature of public institutions. If the government purchased almost all open source, this would produce a renaissance in open source development. It would not only massively improve government IT projects and their costs, but it would improve the entire IT industry.

Increased Transparency of The Government and Elections

A second point is the benefits of published and public code.

In the US a corrupt company named Diebold has established a stronghold in voting machines. The ownership of this company is hazy, and its code is entirely proprietary — even though it is being used in public elections. The machines are routinely and easily hacked, and there is nothing to stop Diebold from accepting money from the highest bidder and rigging machines. As the code is private, there is no way of knowing or auditing the machines. For those that consider this potential to be outlandish or a conspiracy, this exact same thing happened with US presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg was investor in a voting app company called Shadow. This company’s app was used in the Iowa primary, widely considered a disaster and one that Pete mysteriously “won,” even though he was not a prominent candidate at that time.

In the case of Diebold, why a “machine” is needed versus a website is another discussion, but there is simply no way election software should be a closed source.

More Self Serving Material Produced by Gartner

There is no thought in Di Maio’s article, it is an article written backward from the conclusion that open source needs to be discredited and its proponents declared zealots or extremists or other ad discrediting attacks. If Di Maio had some legitimate claims I would respect his argument and say we simply disagree. However, Di Maio’s article is not written from the perspective of offering honest argumentation against open source. This article is deliberately leaving out important information and is designed to deceive the reader.

Just as with all of the rest of its output, Gartner again fails to disclose its enormous financial bias.

Gartner opposes open source because Gartner does not receive revenues for open source. Gartner is not a research entity, they borrow the prestige of being research entity, while violating all of the rules of research, which includes transparency. Just as the code of commercial software is hidden, Gartner’s research is similarly hidden, with no transparency, no disclosure of financial interests — and get away with this because Gartner is a prestigious entity — and therefore they are not questioned as to why so many of the things they would be obligated to disclose if they were part of any research ecosystem are hidden.


The commercial vendors, or at least the larger ones have agreed that Gartner is going to be who they will support. Gartner is their lobby group. Open source projects do not coordinate like this. Instead, each open source project markets individually. There is no one open source goes to that promotes open source and then undermine commercial vendors. This is a huge advantage for commercial vendors. This is essentially overhead. Gartner’s cost must be passed onto software buyers.

Open source projects don’t appear to spend time or resources going after and questioning the legitimacy of entities that discriminate against open source. IT analysts like Gartner, IDC, and Forrester perpetually rig their output in favor of those that pay them, and further those that pay them the most money. None of these firms are really in the research business. They are in the business of pretending to do research to maximize their profits. None of their output would meet research standards because there is no disclosure of vendor payments as we cover in the article How Gartner’s Research Compares to Real Research Entities. And the undisclosed vendor payments are just the beginning of the many ways in which Gartner violates research standards.

Consulting firms that have practices built around packaged vendors (and this is the primary business model) are sales arms of vendors, scooping up implementation business for the vendors that they partner with.

Their views aren’t legitimate.

Instead, their views are the embodiment of financial bias. Their “opinions” are based upon their income stream. Both IT analysts and vendor aligned consulting firms aggressively lobby against medium, small, and open source options.

What Open Source Projects Should Do

Open source needs not only to advertise its positive characteristics, which it already does but needs to be assertive in calling out the system that discriminates against the open-source for money. We have outstanding open-source projects like PostgreSQL that still don’t get chosen and lose out to commercial options. There are reasons like application certification and the previous version of Oracle using a stored procedure. So there is undoubtedly lock-in, but there is also a lot of use of commercial options for no technical reason.

The Problem: Thinking that Gartner is Focused on What is True

Gartner is hired by companies who fundamentally don’t understand how Gartner functions. Gartner has virtually no first-hand experience in the technologies that they evaluate and get most of their information from speaking with executives at buyers or executives at vendors and consulting firms. Gartner is also not a research entity. They compare very poorly to real research entities once you dig into the details as we did in the article How Gartner’s Research Compares to Real Research Entities. Gartner serves to direct IT spending to the most expensive solutions as these are the companies that can afford to pay Gartner the most money. Gartner has enormously aggressive internal sales goals that place accuracy far below revenue growth in importance.