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The NSW and federal governments in particular are finalising the administrative and commercial structures required to support their agencies' purchase of Linux and open source solutions.
Federal Senator Eric Abetz -- whose portfolio encompasses government procurement -- plans to release an open source procurement guide during a keynote at an Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra in three weeks' time. The guide -- a companion to the federal ICT Sourcing Guide -- tells agencies how to go about assessing and buying non-proprietary solutions.
In NSW, the government a week ago assured ZDNet Australia its tender for a panel of Linux suppliers to state departments and agencies -- which closed six months ago -- was "proceeding on schedule, with the successful vendors to be announced soon".
The state's move comes on the back of development of software tools enabling agencies to evaluate their procurement options and implement their chosen solution. Some agencies -- including the Judicial Commission (with a research system) and the Office of State Revenue (with support for its core taxation system) -- have implemented open source solutions since the tools were developed.
However, these government structures are designed to create a level playing field for Linux and open source vendors to compete with their proprietary rivals, not tip the playing field one way or the other. Fitness for purpose and value for money are, as always, the key drivers behind government procurement.
Now more than ever, Linux and open source solution providers -- particularly smaller ones -- must prove themselves and their products against the likes of Microsoft if they want to win the big deals. They must develop compelling arguments for superiority over their rivals in areas such as security, scalability, support and cost.
As Robb Rasmussen, the vice-president of EDS Global Alliances, made clear recently, some suppliers to government are still very sceptical about the performance of Linux and open source in large enterprise environments. While there was obviously a competitive dimension to his remarks, they are unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Australia's government procurement officials.
It won't be be easy for Linux and open source suppliers to extend their reach in government. But at least the structures are coming together that allow them to compete fairly and squarely.
What do you think? Are Linux and open source suppliers poised to win big government deals? Are government procurement officers likely to favour proprietary solutions? E-mail us at email@example.com and let us know.