Government Projects Boost Support for Open Source

Agencies in the U.K, Russia and the U.S. this week announced projects aimed at raising the place of open-source software and Linux.

The U.K. government on Wednesday ratcheted up its commitment to using Linux across its departments, announcing nine proof of concept pilot open-source software projects across central government departments and the wider public sector.

The nine pilots are being coordinated by the Office of Government Commerce and the Office of the eEnvoy, and build on the strategy announced last July that allowed government departments to consider Linux and open-source software when making buying decisions.

The initial trials are being conducted by IBM and will measure the effectiveness and cost-benefits of IT systems based on open source products when compared against proprietary software solutions. They may lead to further pilot-studies with a limited range of selected suppliers to validate the emerging findings.

Peter Gershon, the chief executive of the Office of Gov-ernment Commerce, said the move built on the governments commitment to create a level playing field between open-source software from a range of suppliers and proprietary software within government procurement.

"The trials will operate in a controlled environment and will enable us to identify when and how-best to use the technology to the benefit of departments and the taxpayer alike," he said in a statement.

Adam Jollans, the Linux Strategy manager for IBMs software group, told eWeek on Wednesday that this move underlined the continued momentum of the adoption of Linux in the public sector. The goal is to test a variety of services and solutions across the participating departments to determine where the benefits and cost savings lay.

But he stressed that IBM was not positioning this as pitting open-source and Linux software versus Windows, but should rather be viewed as the U.K. governments intention to give its departments another choice to proprietary Windows and Unix.

"There are a lot of benefits to using open-source software, including increased reliability on Intel systems, the security advantages that come from avoiding a mono-Microsoft culture and the better price performance offered by using Linux on Intel commodity hardware," he said.

The latest moves abroad follow the announcement by the City Council of Munich in May that it had decided to deploy the Linux open-source operating system and would migrate its 14,000 desktop and notebook computers away from Windows products to Linux.

And last week here in the U.S., Massachusetts, the lone holdout state still suing Microsoft Corp. for antitrust violations, announced it would become the first state to adopt broad-based strategy of moving its computer systems toward open standards, including Linux, the rival operating system to Microsofts Windows.

Also on Wednesday, IBM and the Russian Ministry of Communications and Computerization announced that they would be opening a Linux Competency Center to promote the adoption of Linux in Russia.

The new center aims to help any and all customers take advantage of Linux. The Moscow Technical University of Communications has also committed to contributing open-source skills and technical solutions to the center.

Andrey Korotkov, the Deputy Minister of the Russian Ministry of Communications and Computerization, said IT solutions based on Linux and open standards would open up opportunities for Russian businesses. "In particular, this center will help create a Linux ecosystem enabling Russian hi-tech companies to expand into global markets faster," he said in a statement.

Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.