commentary IBM and Novell's inking of contracts to formally become members of the NSW government's Linux and open source panel should finally start delivering some real competition in state procurement. The panel format not only allows agencies to select services and solutions directly from a list of approved vendors, slashing procurement costs, but provides a formal contractual framework designed to increase purchasing officers' confidence in Linux and open source offerings.
commentary IBM and Novell's inking of contracts to formally become members
of the NSW government's Linux and open source panel should
finally start delivering some real competition in state
The panel format not only allows agencies to select services
and solutions directly from a list of approved vendors, slashing
procurement costs, but provides a formal contractual framework
designed to increase purchasing officers' confidence in Linux and open
According to the government, establishing the panel alone can
help agencies cut 12-25 percent from the costs of procuring
solutions or services.
The signatures of the two heavyweights comes after CSC and a
handful of small to medium enterprises signed on, with other
leading players such as Hewlett-Packard and Red Hat likely to
follow suit shortly. Their move goes a long way towards
legitimising the path the NSW government opted to take to
encourage agencies to use Linux and open source software, despite
the length of time it has taken to reach this point. (The
government first released the request for tender to secure expressions of interest from prospective panellists in
In anticipation of the panel project getting this far, NSW government officials have
been eagerly spruiking the benefits of
Linux and open source software and what state agencies are doing
in that area.
One Department of Commerce officer, Cameron Parle, last year
publicly described Linux as "truly robust and flexible" with the
potential to save agencies "huge sums of money". The manager,
strategic projects, from the Government Chief Information Office,
Dr Elizabeth Gordon-Werner, has hit the conference circuit to
detail how the state plans to "change the mindset" of agencies
when it comes to Linux and other open source solutions.
There has already been some adoption of Linux and open source
solutions within the state, notably by the NSW Department of
Education, Roads and Traffic Authority and Judicial Commission.
However, Dr Gordon-Werner acknowledges there is still plenty of
education to be done and thinking to be changed before those
solutions and services are given proper consideration by a lot of
managers within government.
However, no-one from the Linux and open source community
should fall into the trap of thinking the state is embracing a
community development ethos. The reality is that the state
government is desperate to foster real competition to the
offerings of proprietary software heavyweights in an effort to
slash its overall information and communications technology
The NSW government's initiative is no doubt being closely
watched by Microsoft and other proprietary players. Microsoft
will be particularly keen to see what the ramifications of the
NSW moves are in states like Victoria, which has a highly
valuable existing relationship with the software heavyweight. You
can be damn sure Microsoft will not lie down and roll over when
valuable government business is at stake.
Microsoft's local boss Steve Vamos and his team will be doing their
very best not only to retain their government contracts and lock
out potential competitors, but working to ensure Linux and open
source does not gain sufficient credibility within government to
be used as a stick by agencies trying to win big discounts from
The success of the NSW government's move will only really be
clear once a cycle of agency renewal and upgrade schedules has
been completed. It will certainly be interesting to see what
deals are struck and at what value over the next three or four
years. Your writer thinks Linux and open source
software will make some headway -- but Microsoft will continue to wield its
extensive commercial muscle to dominate the state government sector.
What do you think? Will Linux and open source achieve its potential in Australian government or will Microsoft keep it out? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and let us know.
Iain Ferguson is the News Editor of ZDNet
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