A free business advisory service has been set up by open-source consultancy Sirius in an attempt to dispel some of the confusion around the subject.

The company has launched the online service, Open for Business, to handle the misapprehensions about open source, said Sirius CEO Mark Taylor. "We're introducing the service as a relatively easy way to get into open source," he said. "There are a lot of mixed messages out there, users are confused about some of the issues - handling legacy software, the legal issues, the perceived lack of support - what we're trying to do is counter that FUD."

He said that a clash with existing software was a common worry. He explained that a comment that he often heard from prospective open source users was "There's no way that I'm ripping out everything that I've already installed." Taylor said that these anxious users have to be told that open source would often fit in very nicely to their organisations.

Taylor said that the service, launched in conjunction with Linux User and Developer magazine, was meant to provide business reasons for the adoption of open source rather than focusing on technology, an area that's already well-catered for. "For example, if an organisation wants to introduce Samba, there's plenty of excellent technical material on the web but we have 10 years' experience in implementing Samba in organisations and we could provide a lot of useful information," he said.

The objective for the new service is to encourage more organisations to adopt an 'Open Source, Open Standards' policy in their procurement of technology, although Taylor admits that he hopes that a lot of companies will want to use Sirius in a consultancy capacity.

Taylor said that he had little idea how many user organisations would want to use the new service or whether the company could be swamped by demand. "Obviously, we won't be able to give a full week's consultancy or implement open source for customers as part of the free service," he said.