NSW ponders open source, SaaS

The NSW Government is evaluating the benefits of software as a service and open source software in a bid to rationalise and reduce the costs of its software procurement, according to a Request for Information document released today.

The NSW Government is evaluating the benefits of software as a service (Saas) and open source software in a bid to rationalise and reduce the costs of its software procurement, according to a Request for Information (RFI) document released today.

The government is calling for submissions from the IT industry to evaluate "options for alternative delivery and acquisition models for the provision of software solutions". As part of a whole-of-government review of IT procurement, NSW "is keen to investigate all potential alternatives to acquiring and using common enterprise software applications and solutions," the document said.

One of the main aims of the Treasurer's Better Services and Value Taskforce, announced in June 2009, is to rationalise government spending on information and communication technology.

The NSW Government estimates it spends $100 million per year on software licences, out of a total IT and telecommunications budget of $700 million. It maintains a fleet of 320,000 desktop computers with an annual total ownership cost of around $2500 each. In the last financial year it acquired more than 70,000 desktop PCs and 28,000 notebooks.

The RFI document notes a range of trends in the technology industry which it believes will help it reduce the costs of software procurement, including: the move towards software rentals under the software-as-a-service model; the adoption of service-oriented architecture and enterprise services bus technology; commercial adoption of virtualisation and grid computing technologies; and the mainstream acceptance of open source software and the availability of commercial support for open source packages.

Considering these changes, the NSW Government is looking to move away from the traditional software licensing models it has used until now, towards software as a service, open source technology and more flexible software licensing models.

The RFI calls for suggestions that may help the NSW Government reduce software spending across a broad range of software acquisitions including desktop operating systems, core desktop applications, specialist applications for developers and project managers, portal services, collaboration applications and databases.

In May 2008, Senator Kate Lundy said governments needed to create policies encouraging agencies to consider using open source software when making purchasing decisions. However, government CIOs said a lack of commercial support options hampered their use of open source software.