Red Hat bemoans poor AU open source takeup

Red Hat's Michael Tiemann Senior Red Hat executives today admitted open source software was "peripheral" to the IT strategies of most Australian organisations. "The enthusiasm from the corporate and government sectors is still very far behind almost everywhere else I've been," the Linux vendor's vice president of open source affairs, Michael Tiemann, told ZDNet Australia today.

Michael Tiemann
Red Hat's Michael Tiemann
Senior Red Hat executives today admitted open source software was "peripheral" to the IT strategies of most Australian organisations.

"The enthusiasm from the corporate and government sectors is still very far behind almost everywhere else I've been," the Linux vendor's vice president of open source affairs, Michael Tiemann, told ZDNet Australia today.

"In terms of how central it is to strategy, open source seems very peripheral here."

Tiemann is one of Red Hat's most senior executives, having held the chief technology officer role for several years up until mid 2004.

He is extremely well-known in the open source community and currently serves as interim president of the Open Source Initiative, the non-profit body which defines which software licences can be classified as open source.

Red Hat's local managing director Max McLaren backed Tiemann's comments, saying although his company was seeing local early adopters like merchant banks and telecommunications carriers rolling out open source software extensively, the inclusion of open source software in high-level IT strategy was "not yet pervasive".

In contrast, Tiemann said his experience internationally was that the value of open source software was becoming "universally accepted", albeit for different reasons, ranging from its cost -- which could facilitate economic development in poorer countries -- to simple pragmatism about stability and even idealogical reasons of technological independence.

Red Hat is the second party this week to bemoan Australia's lack of enthusiasm for open source software.

The vendor's comments come as technology analyst group Gartner two days ago warned IT managers at its annual symposium in Sydney that only around five percent of large IT organisations currently had fully developed open source procurement policies.

Pointing the finger
Tiemann said he had a hypothesis as to why Australia differed from many other countries in its approach to open source software.

The executive said local IT managers were inclined to simply wait for proprietary software vendors to deliver a generic finished product to their doorstop to meet their needs, rather than tinkering with open source software to build their own customised solution.

"They'd rather wait for a finished product than get something that they actually do want, by putting their own shoulder to the grindstone," he said, claiming the proprietary vendors often failed to deliver products that met user requirements.

"If you don't accept this idea of taking control of your own destiny, you'll never understand why the open source software community hasn't put a product on your doorstep," he said.

Max McLaren
Red Hat's local chief
Max McLaren

Comments from the operations boss of one of Australia's biggest IT shops this week supported Tiemann's view of Australian IT procurement.

"The first software developer code writer that even attempts to modify a piece of software will be doing something else for a living, hopefully working for one of our competitors and screwing up their IT platforms," said Telstra's Greg Winn earlier this week.

The executive had just announced his company would be slashing by 75 percent its 1,200-odd business and operational support systems over the next three-to-five years, along with a similar reduction in network platforms.

McLaren claimed the argument for using open source software should be simple for CIOs, and that Red Hat's biggest challenge was getting its message into the marketplace.

"Having been a sales representative in the IT world for 20-plus years, the value proposition of dramatic reduction in cost, dramatic improvements in productivity and dramatic improvement in time to market is a no-brainer for an CIO," he alleged.

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