In the same week that the cornerstone Munich council transition to Linux has been halted, the Australian government has given the open-source technology the thumbs up.
Federal government agencies in Oz are developing their own open source-based applications and will make them available for re-use across the whole of government in the form of generic software applications held in code banks.
Known as "white-branding", the push by agencies to develop their own applications has the backing of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) in conjunction with agency representatives sitting on the government's Chief Information Officer Committee and Information Management Strategy Committee.
Acting Australian government CIO John Grant confirmed that a number of government-commissioned, White-branded open source solutions are under development, but declined to nominate which agencies were considering or pursuing white-branding projects.
Grant stressed that such projects had come about purely because they represented the best interoperable solution, at the best price, rather than any rejection of proprietary software models from vendors. "Re-use of code is important. We don't want to keep reinventing the wheel, we want agencies to focus on continual improvement. Interoperability is a key issue in the government now. We wanted to create the ability to share and re-use data, albeit within the privacy and security frameworks that must exist."
He continued: "I think there is an increasing consideration of what is already available when agencies are looking at replacing or putting in new systems - rather than developing from scratch. That's what you are seeing," Grant said.
While loathe to say vendors were failing mandated government interoperability expectations, Grant conceded commercial products would probably have been used if available.
At the end of June, Linux received another boost to its credibility when Allied Irish Banks (AIB) signed a deal to migrate all its branches desktops from Windows to the open source OS.
AGIMO acting general manager for sourcing and security Tony Judge also confirmed more White-branding initiatives are in the government pipeline. Judge said the government had already gone public with white-branding in 2003, citing a Linux-based content management system (CMS) developed at the request of AGIMO precursor, NOIE, in conjunction with Canberra-based open source developer Squiz.
"There's been quite a history of government sharing these systems. They have ranged from ministerial correspondence management systems through to grants systems and a whole range of other things," Grant said, adding that when the private sector does deliver genuine, common-usage potential "agencies may pick that up".
Meta Group vice president for technology research, Michael Barnes, said the white-branding initiative could succeed, provided agencies can agree on what they want and initiatives were driven by users rather than IT. "The fundamental reason why code re-use has failed [so far] is not technology, it's all the different issues that have prevented collaboration in the past: organisation, compensation and politics. Where there's a common agreement, it is viable," he said.
Not content with beavering away at re-usable code initiatives, AGIMO is also preparing an Open Source Procurement Guide to assist federal agencies evaluating their software purchasing options. It will set benchmarks so agencies can gauge if open source presents the best solution for the best price.
According to Grant, the guide is expected to be completed sometime over the next three months and is being compiled because of genuine, federal ICT user interest. "There is an increased interest in open source. That interest is leading to requests [from government ICT users and CIOs] for better information about the aspects that affect open source."
Grant conceded that feelings can run hot in the ongoing debate over proprietary and open source models, especially once word gets out. "Already we have had people coming in and saying 'great to see you pressing for the adoption of open source' and you have to say, well hang on, you have to be balanced in this - you can't just be open sourced. We get both sides of it..." Grant said.