Ireland Open to Open Source

Government plans nationwide centers of excellence.

Irelands government is the latest in Europe to consider embracing Linux and open-source software, with initiatives under way to create nationwide Open Source Centers of Excellence.

The centers would provide expertise to examine the use of open-source software going forward, government officials said last week. Momentum, a trade association representing some 170 of Northern Irelands technology companies, is spearheading the initiative and wants the centers to span both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"We are also planning to hold the great open-source debate next year, which will look at how free and open-source technology, as a disruptive technology, has changed the way the software industry does business and the new opportunities it has spawned," said Ian Graham, Momentums chief executive, in an interview here.

"Disruptive business models like this offer real opportunities for those smaller, more niche-oriented software companies," Graham said. "But there still needs to be better integration between all of the component parts, product streams and all the organizations that have sprung up around this, like the Open Source Development Labs [Inc.]."

The Irish governments plan follows a similar one by the British government, whose Office of Government Commerce last year issued a report that said open-source software is a viable and credible alternative to proprietary software for infrastructure implementations and for meeting the requirements of most desktop users.

Another OGC report, also released last year and titled "Open Source Software Use Within the UK Government," said the British government will consider open-source software solutions alongside proprietary offerings in IT procurements.

Contracts will be awarded on a value-for-money basis, and the British government will use for interoperability only those products that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments. The government will also seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services, the report said.

Bob McClean, sales and marketing director for Asidua Ltd., a company based here that offers embedded system integration and consulting services, said there is a drive in the embedded systems world toward Linux as the operating system of choice. That move is the result of developers gaining a level of trust in Linux and a belief in the advantages of using it.

Asidua started using Linux in a serious way some 18 months ago, when its customers started adopting the operating system in a widespread manner.

"We are now integrating code that has not been developed by us or our customers into products and solutions for the first time," said McClean. "Our customers no longer see Linux as having a high-risk profile, which, added to its cost benefits, makes it an attractive proposition."