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Government CIOs 'do not understand open source'

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.
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Written by Munir Kotadia, Correspondent and  Marcus Browne on

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, ZDNet.com.au 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.

ZDNet.com.au's Liam Tung contributed to this article

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