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An open path: rSmart and SunGard Higher Education partner to deliver Sakai

September 28, 2010

Brick path through green grassIf uncertainty is one of the most significant barriers to widespread adoption of open source software, then the barrier just got a lot lower. This morning my company (rSmart), and SunGard Higher Education announced a partnership that promises to have a real impact on the adoption of the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE).

I’ve spent the better part of the last decade helping to build capacity for the education community to develop and sustain its most important software—software like the Sakai learning platform which supports a wide range of scholarly collaboration including online courses, hybrid courses, and inter-institutional research collaboration.

Today the Sakai and Kuali communities are made up of more than one hundred education-focused organizations of all shapes, sizes, and national origins. These communities are producing and sustaining high-quality, enterprise software that is functionally and technically on-par with any of the alternatives available to colleges, universities, and educational organizations serving K-12 or corporate learners. Institutions as diverse as Marist College, Indiana University, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the American Public University System are running these systems successfully to serve millions of faculty, students, administrators, and researchers—and they’re doing it at a lower cost.

Taking stock of the situation: 1) These communities are producing software that meets expectations and performs at levels the industry expects; 2) There are good examples of peer institutions across the spectrum of institution types using the software successfully; 3) There are good reduced total cost of ownership stories that are very appealing in today’s economy; 4) The Sakai and Kuali communities offer a path for institutions that appeals to the natural disposition in the market toward co-creation and open, collaborative efforts; and 5) At least one quarter of the market have legacy contracts for their learning platform that give them a time-certain deadline to transition from the platform they are running today to something new.

It seems like these conditions would represent a case for change, and that the market would be moving quickly to the Sakai path. And yet, while there’s a healthy growth in adoption, it falls short of its potential.

I believe that one of the most significant barriers to open source adoption is the uncertainty and unfamiliarity with open source software vendor relationships. Most organizations across industries aren’t capable, or don’t have the culture or desire to adopt open source software on their own. Most acquire OSS through more traditional vendor relationships. Though I am very proud of the rSmart team and what we offer our customers, we have a limited reach. This is one of the reasons I’m so excited about this partnership with SunGard Higher Education. rSmart’s community-centric culture, and strong competencies developing, supporting, and hosting Sakai, combined with SunGard’s reach, services capacity, and longstanding reputation for serving education may remove that difficult uncertainty barrier—it may finally create the open path that enables truly widespread adoption of Sakai.

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