Bigwigs form S'pore open-source group

Industry alliance comprising heavyweights like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, has been formed to promote open-source software adoption in Singapore.

SINGAPORE--A nine-member industry alliance comprising heavyweights like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, has been formed to promote open-source software adoption in Singapore.

Spearheaded by Resolvo Systems, a Singapore-based Linux solutions provider, the Singapore Open Source Alliance (Sosa) will also converse with chief information officers in government bodies as well as small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), to accelerate the growth of open-source software in the island-state.

Other than IBM and HP, the alliance also consists of Red Hat, Novell, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Intel, according to Yap Boon Leong, business development director of Resolvo Systems. "Sosa is possibly the only open-source consortium in the world involving several key industry heavyweights," he told ZDNet Asia.

Yap added that the alliance aims to increase Singapore's use of open-source software in specific application areas like data centers, desktop PCs, intranet content management, virtualization and storage.

A hardware compatibility list will also be drawn up and maintained by Sosa members to help businesses determine if their hardware can run open-source software, he said.

John Phipps, IBM Singapore's government programs executive, said alliances such as Sosa are "very effective in raising the level of understanding on open-source technologies".

"In Singapore, we want to see a broader understanding of open-source technologies so that companies here have a firm understanding of what's going on in open-source, open standards and interoperability," he said.

Smaller IT companies with limited IT resources can also benefit by joining Sosa, to get insights on market trends, he said. They can also gain access to bigger vendors to whom they can sell services to later on, he added.

Harish Pillay, Red Hat Asia-Pacific's manager of partner development, said Sosa will paint Singapore in a more positive light when others question the state of open-source adoption in the country.

"When people ask about what Singapore is doing (with open-source), the answer is nothing much," he said. "Hopefully, this initiative will help to increase awareness and adoption of open-source technologies."

Bottom of the barrel
Pillay added that open-source technologies are developing at a rapid pace and "we cannot afford to wait because the region is catching up quickly." He noted that Singapore is already lagging behind other countries in this area.

"We are at the bottom of the barrel. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have (released) government statements promoting open-source, but we don’t have one (here)."

David Tang, business partner manager of Novell Singapore, said Singapore's IT leadership in the region is largely contributed by proprietary software vendors. "(Singapore) has a stake with the vendors because of their huge investment. Because of that, the general populace is wary of trying out open-source."

Tang cited an example of a local polytechnic which only saw 20 out of 800 IT students sign up to be part of an open-source special interest group.

Shocked by the numbers, he had questioned the school authorities, who said "people would generally go with what is acceptable and widely used, rather than try something different."

Tang added that the polytechnic could not be convinced to install dual-boot machines with Windows and Linux because it said its students would not be able to accept the open-source OS. "It's an uphill climb," he said.

Future generations in Singapore may be leapfrogged by countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, if the country does not embrace open-source on a wider scale, he said.

Tang also noted that IBM staff in the Philippines had recently contributed to IBM Redbooks on Linux--a technical whitepaper on deploying the open-source platform. "But, we have none in Singapore who has contributed to Redbooks," he said. "If we are fearful of the future, we are going to be fearful of our neighbors in IT because they have wholeheartedly embraced open-source."

While Singapore is perceived to be playing second fiddle to other countries in the region in open-source, it also boasts of some well-known case studies. For example, the country's Ministry of Defense has some 20,000 desktops installed with OpenOffice office productivity suite last year.