James Governor's Monkchips

Why Open Source Analysis Will Grow: Learning from The Sumerians

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I have been surprised that some of the people I expected to agree with ideas I put forward in a recent blog about open source analysis, On Open Source, Declarative Living and Making Better Platform Decisions, have been fairly dismissive.
Apparently I wasn’t clear enough in my argument. So here is a restatement:
Are enterprises and vendors happy to pay the Gartner tax ad infinitum?
If you are a vendor are you happy that an industry analyst firm can hold you to ransom, acting as a gatekeeper to enterprise purchasing?
If you are an enterprise are you really happy to take technical advice from a firm that refuses to makes it methodologies public or admit what percentage of its revenues are driven by vendors, rather than your enterprise peers? At least one chief operating officer is definitely not happy with the status quo. Jonathan says:
Given the increasing scrutiny under which Gartner and IDC now find themselves, it’d probably help their credibility if they, like the financial analyst community, started disclosing revenues they receive from the vendors they cover. At their scale, vs. the smaller boutiques, I think it’s going to become an imperative.
And personally, it may end up being a determinant of whether we’re willing to do business with such firms. Transparency’s a good thing.

If the answer to any of my questions above is no then perhaps you should consider alternatives.

My key argument in the last blog was that ten years ago nobody would have believed that Linux would be used widely in the enterprise. Open source was something for sandal-wearing university students.
But the costs of supporting a proprietary industry were being borne by customers. Eventually they began to shrug those shackles off, as the students got job as IT architects. Today a swathe of open source technologies are being widely adopted by enterprises, in development and production.
RedMonk has great relationships with developers and architects now. What happens when they become architects and CIOs?
Is it really so hard to imagine a shared model for market research and analysis will ever take off?
What if you could cut your Gartner budget by 30%, and improve your corporate decision making in the process? What would you do with the money? What if you could base your best practices on peer experience, rather than someone else’s tablets of stone, brought down from the mountain?
Gartner is like a mainframe in 1979. Ripe for deconstruction.
We now have new collaboration, coordination and governance techniques that can underpin a change in how analysis is done. We should learn from the experiences of the Eclipse Foundation.
Wouldn’t it be nice to think that one day in the not too distant future enterprises had access to, and could contribute to, their own platform quadrants. No magic required, just aggregated decision-making.
Basically openness wins over time. It lowers costs for everbody, and accelerates innovation.
As Ajit says:

a) Information technology gives cultures and civilizations a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to leapfrog / totally transform themselves and secondly.

However, it’s not enough merely to create a new ‘information innovation(a language, a printing press etc)’ – it’s necessary to remove barriers so that it can spread fast, create new nodes and enrich itself. Leading to the second point

b) ‘Closed’ civilizations and knowledge centres do not grow. In fact, they shrink and die

 He continues:

The Sumerians invented one of the first languages as we know it. As per the link above Sumerian, the oldest known written language in human history, was spoken in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and peripheral regions) throughout the third millennium BC and survived as an esoteric written language until the death of the cuneiform tradition around the time of Christ.

It was the first but it was ‘elite’ i.e. for aristocracy, esoteric (like Greek and Latin today) and different to almost all the then contemporary languages (like Hebrew).

The result is – inspite of being the first – it’s an extinct language today.

I leave my astute readers to join the dots…

Gartner is sort of a competitor, but probably too big to be one per se.

Its not the competition, its the environment in which we compete… but they used to say that about the IBM mainframe ecosystem, didn’t they? Gartner won’t die but its margins will shrink.

 the winner is not the one with the best (or earliest) breakthrough(like the Sumerians) – but rather the one with the greatest number of ‘links’ i.e. an open system
So please link to RedMonk… You know we’ll link to you.
Is that any clearer, folks? Any takers?


  1. Its Gulliver and the Lilliputs.

    I agree with you …but you and I and others need to keep screaming at the open source analyst world (blogs) to keep focused on the enterprise world. Sometimes I think 90% of blogs write for each other not the enterprise buyer or vendor.

  2. many thanks. I already link to you via our blogroll and find your insights very useful. keep up the good work rgds Ajit

  3. hey Dan Farber has a nice posting on zdnet.

    Is that you in the Photo ?? at least I can put a name to a face now :)-

    yeah “open gardens” is a nice concept – just like the tag garden thingy !!

    Anyhow, back to the topic–I think the problem with the disclosure and Transprency that many company’s expect you to sign an NDA to move forward with recommendations and analysis. This leaves very little room for an analyst to disclose.

    How much can you disclose James ?? Please dont take this in the wrong way. Gandhi once said “you must be the change, you want the world to be”. I can’t agree with you more on the transprencey and Discloure thing, it will happen over time. The market now knows more then a company does of its own products and services. It will come out slowy and surely. However, one must lead the charge and imho you , Yes James–you are the one which should spearhead these changes. Seek out a customer and post revenue data and analysis methods, this will reshape the “analyst” areana in terms of work practices and relationship building.

    IMHo, the world has moving from an information economey to a knowledge economy !! That knowledge is worth buy and also worth bragging about !!

    Yeah yeah, and the da man !! :)-

  4. OK Jim – we’re on a page I can make sense of now. Here’s the deal. Open source analysis a la blogosphere IS Gartner’s competition. Gartner can’t see it. It’s the kind of myopia where ‘you’ believe in your own hype and brand to the point of religion. It’s the kind of atrophy that is inevitable in large organisations. It’s like shifting the Titanic. Bloody hard when you’re bearing down on an iceberg. But there’s another factor here.

    On whom do they focus? You? Me? Vinnie? All of us? How big a scattergun do you need once the customers get out there and start talking in earnest about their experiences?

    It’s over – they don’t know it and in that sense I see them as little different to mainstream media.

    Now if they’re really really smart, they’ll see the brick wall. But I’d go further. I reckon you’re going to be looking at a lower price point than you might imagine. Maybe 50%? A huge amount depends on the value that both vendors and customers see in this and how it gets aggregated, mashed together, re-interpreted and spat back out.

  5. +1 for RedMonk 🙂

  6. Gartner is great at some things, and its also “the devil you know” when it comes to enterprise purchasing – a bit like nobody ever got shot for buying IBM. I do know plenty of vendors that would rather not pay the tax, but the alternative isn’t sufficiently well formed to present true competition just yet. I think the issue runs far deeper than Gartner alone – its to do with how vendors make short-term money, banwagoneering as market making in this jeune industry, and the role of VC companies and startups – I suspect, for example, that many magic quadrants are viewed only by PR companies, financiers and the press, despite their original purpose as being an end-user tool. If this is true, is it Gartner the evil empire, or Gartner preaching to the choir? Hmm.

    Second off, the Gartner model has many other issues that are nothing to do with how the information is delivered, but more to do with the way IT is structured – architecturally. Gone are the days when things were as clear cut as comparing “accounting packages” for example, or “databases”, these days its far more about how things work together. There’s a couple of just-getting-started posts on my blog about the participation age: where I think this is right to a point, I don’t believe current thinking goes nearly far enough. Viz: application elements are also participants, which can declare their capabilities and commune with other components/services/resources/people. The mashup (euww – hate that term) is one indicator of this, that the barriers to entry are dropping. How does one analyse that, exactly? One thing’s for sure – not by putting together shortlists of companies, as quadrants, or tagets, or curves or whatever. The crossing the chasm model is dead: for many technologies, the chasm is already crossed, but this model is still the basis for how we – as in teh industry and analyst community – define and report on technology.

    We need other models and they are still to come – I know some vendors that are crying out for such things. We also need clarity, which I imagine is one of the reasons Gartner was set up in the first place. However, now, we need a different kind of clarity to MQ’s et al. I wish I could say I had such models, but even if I did, there would be no guarantee of general industry acceptance, which would be a pre-requisite for their success.

    To conclude then, I don’t know whether Gartner’s future success lies in consultancy, or dropping its prices, or revealing its methods or what. I believe enterprise companies will be prepared to pay a premium for anyone that offers such a level of clarity in the future. Success would mean significant change for Gartner, which is currently locked into its old practices, but maybe it can change… more likely however, like Google is to Microsoft, another, previously unheard of company will crack the code and knock Gartner off the top spot.

    This might not be what you want to hear, as it means we may end up with another gorilla – but that’s human psychology for you – people like to drink Coca cola, eat at McDonalds and listen to Coldplay, because they like joining in with what everyone else is doing. A downside of the participation age, perhaps.


    P.S. Now, where’s that link (rifles through browser) ah, here it is:


  7. “Information technology gives cultures and civilizations a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to leapfrog / totally transform themselves”

    Ajit makes a great point, but isn’t it even more profound than that? Information technology gives cultures and civilisations a chance to transform themselves repeatedly and incrementally over much more than a lifetime…

    For comparable change in the spheres of, say, industrial production or human biology, you have to look to concepts like micro-/nano-fabricators and “DIY DNA manipulation”.

  8. Nice point Vinnie, and also, why woudl Gartner want to change, when vendors still do this sort of thing? Not judging, just commenting!


  9. its me in the photo – but my hair is a little longer now. have been meaning to stick a photo up – i need to catch up with The Beard.

  10. Who’s watching the watchers? And who pays for all this watching? Whenever money changes hands, motives are clarified. Closed system or open system is less relevant than whether the information coming out of “unbiased” sources are really unbiased or are affected by cash.

  11. I agree with James Governor of Redmonk and a commentator to his blog, Dennis Howlett, on how the traditional IT industry analysis business has to change or wither. Openness to knowledge-based commerce for IT — accelerated by open source methods and adoption — is the newly impactful analysis, and it’s increasingly free and easily to find.

    Finding things to charge for — that’s what will be hard for IT analyst firms. See my whole reaction at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Gardner/?p=2259.

  12. I don’t like to post anonymously, but I like my job.

    Here’s a data point: I work for a large and very successful technology vendor. We’re clients of only a few analyst firms, and they’re the big ones whose names you’d guess first. Our analyst relations people have a simple criterion for choosing whether to become clients of a new firm: What specific deals has the analyst brought us? What revenue is traceable to the relationship?

    It’s an easy criterion to understand, and objectively makes some sense for us and for the analyst. If I’m a customer looking for recommendations on a technology buy, though, policies like this one have to worry me. The vendor pays the analyst for deals; the analyst’s behavior is easy to predict.

  13. As I recall, Gartner’s revenue is about 30% from vendors, which I believe makes it the most heavily user-weighted analyst firm. What is RedMonk’s breakdown?

    Why don’t the vendors practice “transparency” then? Sun could publish how much they spend on Gartner. Each vendor that publishes a press release when they are placed in the “visionary” quadrant of an MQ could also mention their annual expenditure on Gartner services.

    If Gartner’s model is broken you do not need to foment blogbellion. The market will take care of it. According to Tekrati there are 450 analyst firms. One of them must be on to a new model that will change the space.

  14. stiennion-

    as my recent coverage makes fairly clear the leviathan vendors don’t necessarily want transparency – but as the link from jonathan makes clear Sun may do exactly that.

    the market will take care of it? bullshit. the business has been open to conflicts of interest for a long time. let the market take care of it? no i am trying to change things. feel free to enjoy the status quo, but i don’t.

    Gartner may be user weighted, to your point, but of that 30% – i bet you find three or four vendors massively dominating. who are gartner’s single biggest customers?

    redmonk’s breakdown – our bottom line is more than 90% vendor-driven. we have always been open about that. we spend a lot of time talking to other constituencies – grassroots devs, architects and so on/ we also often help enterprises with adhoc queries. but our revenue model is primarily vendor driven for now.

  15. Up in Stamford

    I’m up in Stamford now. jetBlue was only an hour late. No unexpected lay-overs this time. Later this afternoon, I’ll be going to IBM’s Open Source Analyst event with Steve. I have no idea what the NDA/”what can be blogged”…

  16. Here is the funny thing. If folks who understand open source analysis were to ever become CIOs, they would actually INCREASE the amount spent with both large and small analyst firms. The key differentiator though would be for these large firms to get some of the additional monies, they may have to change their practices.

    Not spending doesn’t always equate to not saving. If analysts can provide a better value proposition and more scale without compromise then why shouldn’t folks pay for it…

  17. James, two years on this piece still really stands up (and out). Great stuff. We’re now pushing the model outside of IT, which is the best bit 🙂

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