A visiting Red Hat executive has said that wariness on the part of a number of government CIOs over adopting open source is not a reflection of Australia's tech savvy, but the result of a "lack of understanding" of the software and its community.
After a study released earlier this month claimed that open source is no longer a "cottage industry" in Australia, a group of CIOs from the government's three largest agencies — the Department of Defence, the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink — said they remained cautious over adopting open source.
All three IT chiefs cited concerns over support for the software as their reason for not adopting it more widely within their respective departments.
"We can't have a product where we have a problem and we don't have readily available support," said Department of Defence CIO Greg Farr.
However, a visiting Red Hat executive has today hit back at the claims saying the government's caution "mostly comes from a lack of understanding of what open source actually is".
"We're not hearing those same concerns from mature markets now that open source is far more prevalent than it was four or five years ago," said Craig Munzilla, vice president of Red Hat's middleware business, JBoss.
"I actually think Australia as a whole is quite innovative and at the vanguard," he said, adding that Australia accounts for five percent of JBoss downloads worldwide, "which is huge relative to the size of the country".
According to Munzilla, companies and government departments tend to "like the flexibility of open source", but in many cases see it as unstable and volatile due to a perceived lack of support.
"I think it's from a lack of understanding of the model," he said, saying that Red Hat is in discussions with a number of government departments — which he would not name specifically — whose representatives had not displayed the same level of reservation as CIOs like Farr.
"We're engaged in a number of situations where we haven't heard that comment yet, and this is both at state and federal level," he said.
The Red Hat executive said that Australian government sector was in the midst of a "very common adoption cycle" for open source.
"You might find a group within a department that begins to download and experiment with a couple of things in non mission-critical applications," he said.
"If things go well, they'll be allowed to adopt open source for some more important applications and before you know it they're looking at taking on open source as a second standard," said Munzilla.