Big Blue powers up Linux in NSW

A New South Wales government project to make open source software and solutions cheaper and more accessible to its agencies is understood to have been boosted by IBM's confirmation of its membership of a panel of authorised suppliers. IBM joins CSC, Novell and a handful of small to medium-sized suppliers who have inked contracts authorising their participation in the panel after a lengthy negotiation process with state government officials.

A New South Wales government project to make open source software and solutions cheaper and more accessible to its agencies is understood to have been boosted by IBM's confirmation of its membership of a panel of authorised suppliers.

IBM joins CSC, Novell and a handful of small to medium-sized suppliers who have inked contracts authorising their participation in the panel after a lengthy negotiation process with state government officials.

An IBM spokeswoman was unable to confirm the heavyweight's status regarding the panel. However, a Department of Commerce spokeswoman said Big Blue had signed up.

The news comes after Novell last week released a statement claiming its agreement with NSW "was a great endorsement of the advantages that open source has to offer, particularly for government where security and cost issues are of paramount importance".

However, the panel contract does not obligate any department or agency to purchase open source software or solutions.

It does provide a formal contractual framework for suppliers, levelling the playing field in the competition between open source and proprietary software in the state procurement arena.

The Department of Commerce spokeswoman said the first step for the government was to make Linux and other open source offerings "a real alternative" for agencies, who "liked to use" the panel contract system.

Actual takeup within the state government would depend on a range of factors, including agency upgrade and renewal schedules.

She pointed out that while awareness of Linux and open source software may be high within the information technology community in agencies, it may be much lower within non-IT management ranks.

The state Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, unveiled the names of the vendors to be invited onto the panel on 5 April last year following an evaluation process that dragged on for several months after a request for tender closed on 28 October 2004.

Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems are believed to be still in negotiations over final contracts.

A spokesperson for Dell confirmed that while it had not signed up yet, it planned to do so shortly. However, the vendor made a similar response when questioned in October last year.

Red Hat's general manager, Australia and New Zealand, Max McLaren, told ZDNet Australia in October last year that negotiations between his company and the Department of Commerce were slowed by government concerns over indemnification and intellectual property issues involving the open source model.

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