Irish Eyes Are Smiling on Open Source

The Open Source Center of Excellence will provide Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with expertise in examining the use of open source and will also host "the great open-source debate" next year.

BELFAST, Northern Ireland—Initiatives are under way to create an Open Source Center of Excellence across Ireland that will provide the expertise to examine and discuss the use and potential of open source going forward.

Momentum NI, a trade association representing some 170 of Northern Irelands ICT (Information Communications and Technology) companies, is spearheading the initiative and wants the center to span 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," Ian Graham, Momentum NIs chief executive, told eWEEK here Monday.

"Disruptive business models like this offer real opportunities for those smaller, more niche-oriented software companies. 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," he said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifThe OSDL recently rejected an offer by Microsoft to collaborate on a joint research project. Click here to read why.

This move follows those of the British government, with the U.K. Office of Government Commerce last year issuing its final report on open-source software trials. That report said that open-source software is a viable and credible alternative to proprietary software for infrastructure implementations, and for meeting the requirements of the majority of desktop users. (To read the full report in PDF format, click here.)

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

Contracts will be awarded on a value for money basis, and the U.K. government will only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments. It will also seek to avoid lock-in to proprietary IT products and services, the report said. (To read the full report in PDF format, click here.)

Graham said the use of Linux and open-source technologies is also on the rise, particularly as the operating system is now being seen as reliable and enterprise-class.

Bob McClean, sales and marketing director for Asidua, a company that offers embedded system integration and consulting services to customers, agreed, saying there is a drive in the embedded systems world toward Linux as the operating system of choice, with a large amount of development work now being done on the Linux kernel.

"Linux allows the kernel to be tweaked and device drivers to be built in that provide a usable footprint," he said. "We use the MontaVista Software, which seems to be the Linux distribution most used by companies in the telecommunications world."

A level of trust has now developed around the use of Linux, and the advantages of using that operating system environment are increasingly being recognized. "We are now integrating code that has not been developed by us or our customers into products and solutions for the first time," McClean said.

The company started using Linux in a serious way some 18 months ago when its customers began widespread adoption of the operating system. Cost is not the only factor companies consider when making choices, he said, adding that the risk profile associated with the alternatives also plays a huge role. "Our customers no longer see Linux as having a high-risk profile, which, added to its cost benefits, makes it an attractive proposition," McClean said.

Martin Mellon, director of development for Allen Systems Group, a professional services and software development company headquartered in Naples, Fla., but which has a software development center in Belfast, said there is already a perceived preference toward Linux and open-source products and solutions in China, while its own developers now look to see if something they or a customer needs has already been written as an open-source solution before they start developing this themselves.

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