The NSW Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, on Monday announced -- after a six-month tender evaluation process -- 11 companies would be offered positions on the panel. Companies which made the cut included CSC, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Sol1, Starcom, Sun Microsystems and System Integration Services. The positions are subject to "final negotiations," Della Bosca said.
He said when announcing the panel tender in September that agencies would be able to save 12-25 percent by not spending "time and money calling their own tenders and evaluating the bids".
"The panel contract will make available to all agencies an operating system option that aligns well with the NSW government's policy to encourage the use of open standards and improve compatibility between systems," the Minister said yesterday.
The panellists -- primarily global heavyweights -- have nominated more than 15 agents and 20 subcontractors to help fulfil government orders. Della Bosca said many of these were small to medium enterprises.
"This will provide good opportunities for small to medium enterprises and local industry to play an active role in delivering cost-effective Linux services and software, supported by the resources of some of the world's largest open source companies," he added.
However, the government stressed the panel system would not force agencies to use Linux. "Agencies will continue to assess their own needs and choose the option that gives them the best outcome for a particular application," Della Bosca said.
The panel contract runs for two years. The government has the option to extend it for two one-year terms.
NSW government departments have a history of using Linux and open-source technology. The NSW Office of State Revenue in 2004 selected an open source solution for its e-commerce services and state-wide offices. In addition the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority has also selected various pieces of open source software for its e-mail and desktop facilities.
The news comes as federal Senator Eric Abetz -- whose portfolio encompasses government procurement -- said last week that he planned to release an open source procurement guide during his keynote speech at the Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra. The guide -- a companion to the federal ICT Sourcing Guide -- will tell agencies how to go about assessing and buying non-proprietary solutions.