The problem with open source software is a lack of understanding, not a lack of support, according to a Novell executive who hit back at the CIOs from some of Australia's top government agencies.
Responding to opinion from the CIOs from the ATO, Centrelink and Defence that open source software is unattractive due to a lack of support, Novell said that the open source ecosystem is misunderstood.
"Linux is clearly open source, but quality-wise it rivals traditionally manufactured software and has arguably some better support than commercial proprietary systems," Paul Kangro, applied technology strategist at Novell told ZDNet.com.au.
The real problem with open source is that few understand what it is. There are hundreds of thousands of open source projects but just a handful of them — like Linux, Sugar CRM and MySQL — are supported, said Kangro.
"Just because a project is open source doesn't mean it will be supported well or badly. There are key projects like Linux that have a tremendous amount of community support, but you can also purchase support from reputable vendors," he told ZDNet.com.au.
"There's a lack of understanding of what is open source. I think that's a fear that's probably been raised by certain quarters of the industry where they feel that open source is treading on their toes," he said.
He said that Gartner's hype-cycle chart has also added to the confusion.
"So, I think people, after seeing the Gartner hype cycle, thought it's going to be open source everything, and when they find out they can't get support for something they move from a euphoric high to the harsh reality. Every piece of technology goes through this," said Kangro.
However, Kangro pointed out that Telstra is using SUSE Linux as its standard operating environment, while St George bank has "invested heavily in our technology".
"SUSE Linux runs the whole of the German Air Traffic Control. I don't think anyone in their right mind would say that organisation should have software that is not of a first-class standard."
While in the past there have been difficulties getting support in mixed Linux and Windows environments, virtualisation has forced Novell and Microsoft to take a different approach, he said. The companies signed in agreement in 2006 to provide support for the other's operating system, which Kangro believes will lead to Microsoft and Novell's domination of the world.
"To Microsoft's credit, we have realised the way forward is to provide what customers want ... In a few short years, it's going to be a world dominated by Windows-Linux," he said.
"Arguably CIOs want low risk. They want an environment where it works together. Now you have Microsoft selling maintenance certificates for SUSE Linux to their major client base," he said.