Government CIOs 'do not understand open source'

Government CIOs 'do not understand open source'

Summary: Government CIOs that dismiss open source software because of support issues, which is the case for the Australian Tax Office, Defence and Centrelink, simply do not understand the concept, according to Sun Microsystems.


Government CIOs that dismiss open source software because of support issues, which is the case for the Australian Tax Office, Defence and Centrelink, simply do not understand the concept, according to Sun Microsystems.

In April, revealed that a number of high-profile government CIOs claimed their primary reason for not deploying open source software was a lack of support.

"For our really big core stuff, we really need the support we get. We buy the support, so we're not likely to see massive open source right through the place," said Centrelink CIO, John Wadeson.

Simon Phipps, chief open source officer for Sun Microsystems, argues that support for open source projects of any scale is available, and has suggested that reliance on proprietary vendors based solely on their ability to provide support is not a sound business case.

"CIOs who are thinking there's a lack of support are probably people who are thinking solely in terms of spreading the risk over their existing infrastructure," he said.

Phipps claimed that the "commercial strength support" available for open source is comparable with that provided by proprietary vendors. He also explained that administrators have the option of "hiring experts to join their staff".

"The reason that open source works well for businesses is that it puts you back in control of what you spend money on and when; it doesn't mean that you don't spend money and doesn't mean that you're solely responsible for support," he said.

Phipps' comments come after Novell's applied technology strategist, Paul Kangro, said that government CIOs unwilling to experiment with open source did not have a clear understanding of it.

"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," said Kangro.

"Linux is clearly open source, but quality-wise it rivals traditionally manufactured software and has arguably some better support than commercial proprietary systems," he added.'s Liam Tung contributed to this article

Topics: CXO, Enterprise Software, Government, Government AU, Linux, Open Source, Oracle, Software

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • Sulk sulk sulk

    All these open-source zealots do is sulk every time they get the knockback from a CIO who wants to stick with Windows or whatever commercial software is in current use.

    Why would an organisation as massive as the ATO change their entire software platforms simply because the open-source community thinks there is a satisfactory business case for using such software? I'd like to know how they can raise a valid business case for such a massive change when every staff member who uses a computer would have to be re-trained in the use of the new platforms.

    A majority of people, for better or worse, use Windows and Office at home, at work and more often on the go too. It is a fact of life.
  • M$ products is like crack, you know it's not good for you, but can't quit it

    "A majority of people, for better or worse, use Windows and Office at home, at work and more often on the go too. It is a fact of life."

    And I'm sure those same "majority of people" don't know how not to get a virus either, par for the course. The medicine never tastes good, "It is a fact of life".
  • Using Windows doesn't preclude the use of open source.

    People at the company I work for use open source stuff all the time, mainly as end users under Windows, or as developers under both Windows and Solaris.

    Note that both of the above are commercially available platforms.

    Under Windows we write Java code using Eclipse, use PuTTY for accessing UNIX servers, use Firefox as a web browser, etc.

    On the Solaris side, open source software is even more common. The gcc compiler is used by many groups, cvs is sued to create code repositories for projects, many programmers use tools like vim or NEdit, etc.

    We still mainly use Windows, MS Office, Lotus Notes, Solaris, Oracle, IBM's MQ, etc. for the things they are "good" at, but open source tools are slowly replacing tools that used to cost big bucks. Why? Because they work well, they're well supported, and they're a lot less expensive up front.

    It isn't an all or nothing prospect, and it never was. A company can arbitrarily pick and choose between proprietary and open source tools as needed -- there is no need for a wholesale transition to open source tools, and those tools do not requre an open source platform on which to run.
  • Lack of Vision and Understanding

    Lord dimwit - I love people like you - limited understanding, limited vision. it is possible to replace all of the core systems of the ATO with an Open Source eco-system (LAMP). This could be done via the auto generation of the solution. From a design to completed product without the use of programmers. This capability exists now.

    The problem is the entrenched commercials and vested interests and not supprisingly that CIO's are not going to risk their careers - better to be a sheep and conseravtive..

    ICT will go the same way that manufacturing has evolved - rapid substitution of labour for capital.
  • Lack of what?

    I like a bloke who comes along and thinks everything is so simple that it can be done in five minutes and without affecting anyone. Now I know why conservative people exist. They get the job done whilst the rest live in Disneyland eating hotdogs with Goofy and Donald Duck.

    The Anonymous one here, ripping cliches from Star Wars, obviously doesn't have the same responsibilities as the CIO of the tax office.
  • heh

    Are you suggesting that only a Windows box can be infected by a virus? If so then your world is narrower than anyone else's here by a long shot.

    Virus management comes down to competence, not the choice of OS. I use a variety of OSs and software for each one: Windows, FreeBSD and OpenBSD. In 14 years of using a computer not one machine I have had has ever been affected by a virus or any other malware.

    Unlike you, I don't have any experience with crack either, so I wouldn't know about that.
  • Lack of support from Propriety Vendors?

    As a manager, one of my major concerns is that of security. With mission critical, or just mission important, systems, I do not get the security support I require from proprietary vendors, at the moment. Monthly updates are not acceptable, and I find it amazing that any CIO feels comfortable with anything that is greater than an hour.

    In terms of support, I think that both the Open Source and the proprietary vendors are good to excellent, and I am highly aware of the benefits that competition brings in terms of price and quality. I use both, and to discount one is foolish and risky if it is based on a perception that there is no support.

    As Lord Watchdog states, there are zealots, but they are not only Open Source. I have found the propriety vendors have zealots too, and they can promote false information that aims to create false perceptions of everything but their favourite system- to the detriment of other propriety systems, as well as Open Source solutions. Some might say they are frightened, others may say they are just passionate, I think it may just be ignorance or the lack of will to assess other choices. Not traits I would want in a CIO who is looking after my taxes.
  • RE: Sulk Sulk Sulk

    Actually the compatibility between office programs such as and MS Office is now satisfactory. As a taxpayer and opensource advocate I have every right to demand savings in government departments which I and very other reader here support. Did you stop and consider that it is the taxpayer who is footing the extravagant licensing costs for MS, SAP, Oracle and other antiquated, unstable and overpriced platforms ?
  • Re: Re

    As I said in another post, I use a number of platforms on my server rack though most are either FreeBSD or Windows 2000 Advanced Server. I have to say that I don't find any of the servers unstable. Memory leaks are non-existant and uptimes are quite satisfactory.

    You speak about cost savings but the fact that something is open-source doesn't make it free. I also use a few closed-source applications that are free, with no obligations apart from the usual copyright stuff.
  • Ahh government...

    I hate to stereotype, but the thing that certain types of large corporations and pretty much all government has in common is a fear of decentralisation. In one way or another, it threatens their centralised control view of how things should be, and ignoring/belittling the possibilities and power of decentralised locuses of control is just part of the mindset.
  • Sun doesn't have any commercial interest in this ...

    Sun of course is not a biased source. Why do you present this type of spin as if it's serious news?

    I love the way everyone knows more about running government IT than do the CIOs. Hey guys, maybe you should try out for the job next time it's advertised.
  • balance

    if you read properly, this is a response from Sun after the government CIOs said there wasn't enough support.

    that makes this a very balanced story indeed - if not news.
  • Lord Watchdog - The Sulky One

    The reason that open-source zealots want open-source used instead of Microsoft is the financial prison that Windows holds the Gov't in. The basic setting-up costs may seem to be a little more expensive plus the training of course but other than that once it's done it's cheaper & it's all about money. It means we are no longer in the clutches of a company like Microsoft.

    It also means Australia can forge ahead with it's own directions rather than being cramped by Microsoft.

    The money does actually belong to us, the public. The fact that you can't see that we would be better off without Microsoft shows your complete ignorance to the subject matter.

    The fact that you call them zealots shows your own zealotry to proprietary. What's your problem zealot, not a bigot as well are you?
  • CIO's Do not understand Open Source

    As a former Manager of an item department (now retired) I would like to add that proprietary software versus open source arguments is an old dog, should be taken out to the back forty and shot.

    If you use a proprietary OS such as Microsoft's Windows and have problems you pay, pay, pay. If you use Open Source you need to have a full time trouble-shooter and you pay, pay, pay.

    So what's the argument? Either way will ultimately cost much the same. Open Source is not 'free' it still costs money to make it happen. The biggest difference is that it is possible to defeat would be hackers and other computer evils when you compile it for your own speciality. It is also your responsibility and you have to stop blaming Microsoft for being successful.

    Both have their place, both can be a headache and both have not moved very much forward into an age of computing that isn't based on antiquated hardware, time to move into the 21st Century and this argument will be moot.
  • Champions

    Champions, who get themselves formal invitations to fabulous conferences (and locales) and 'heads-up' product demonstrations, courtesy of industry leaders (of the like the European Union has recently dealt with). Then soon afterwards appreciative government agencies are locked into ongoing and rediculously expensive contracts with crooked and unchallenged clauses included. Familiar with this scenario? Probably still going on folks, thanks to public sector champions. captains of chaos
  • Rex Alfie

    You are kidding aren't you? I have seen MS Office Pro VOLUME Licensing as low as $28.00ea for government purchases.
    The government departments aren't wondering down to Harvey Norman to buy MS Office off the shelf like you obviously do.

    Yes you are correct "The money does actually belong to us, the public" and the fact that you can't identify that the government may have actually done it's home work and found out what is really the cheapest roll out in regards to implementation, purchase cost and training really does show your complete ignorance to actual real cost of the suubject matter.

    FYI the government actually does use Opensource software when there is a feasible business case for doing so, there are many government departments who use it for network and server mangement amongst other applications.
    Unfortunately for opensource fanboys, there has been no such case presented to the government where it has been proven that it is cheaper to replace MS products like Office and Win OS with opensource without wasting immense amounts of the publics money doing so.

    So who is the real Zealot?
  • oz government must be a branch of ms marketing

    The average person should not be required to spend $400 on office to simply be able to communicate with the government. I have just tried to apply for a couple of government positions and make an application to university. All of them have been imposible due to not owning a copy of office. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, either works for MS or is an absolute idiot.