July 18, 2005
Free Open Source Software Moves In
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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About this Issue….

Welcome to AECWeekly! Software vendors vie for contracts in the hopes of locking customers into proprietary software solutions, while at the same time offering some flexibility in the form of interoperability and in some cases use the word “open” to describe their solutions. While this is going on, a strong movement toward embracing open source solutions is forcing the hand of some software vendors. When entire countries declare that they are going open source, something has gotta give. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

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Industry News

Free Open Source Software Moves In

By Susan Smith

Software vendors vie for contracts in the hopes of locking customers into proprietary software solutions, while at the same time offering some flexibility in the form of interoperability and in some cases use the word “open” to describe their solutions. While this is going on, a strong movement toward embracing open source solutions is forcing the hand of some software vendors. When entire countries declare that they are going open source, something has gotta give.

Interestingly, Norway's Minister of Modernization Morten Andreas Meyer announced at a press conference Oslo a couple of weeks ago that "Proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communication between citizens and government." His new information technology plan in Norway - "eNorge 2009 - the digital leap", charges all government institutions, both at the national and local level, to work out a recommendation for the use of open source code in the public sector by the end of 2005. By the end of 2006 everyone working in the public sector in Norway must have in place a plan for the use of open source code and open standards. This is a tall order, as the country is likely as deeply
ensconced in Microsoft products as the rest of the world.

Looking into the future, the plan will require a massive restructuring of Public sector in Norway to achieve digital communication between every citizen and the government. To achieve that goal, every citizen will be given their own "home page" for communication with government and for services available to the public 24/7. Included will be a personal electronic ID for every Norwegian citizen. Besides the obvious cost savings of free software (adopters pay for support only with open source), the cost of data will go down, and citizens will be able to access information more easily and for less or no cost.

What open source software will Norway be interested in? It looks as though the plan favors Linux and Apple Computer, a company that has opened up to include open source and open standards more and more.

There are numerous other open source softwares including GNU, FreeBSD, Darwin, and Mambo.

In February of 2005, it was reported that South America was moving toward open source more insistently than any other countries. Almost all governments in South America seem to be setting an open source agenda.

For South America as a whole economics are driving the move toward open source. Brazil is by far the largest country with the largest economy and has 170 million citizens. The huge technology gap between Brazil and other countries is what Brazil's President, Luiz Inacio da Silva, wants to close and has earmarked open source as the means by which to do it. Sergio Amadeu, a former economics professor and Open Source enthusiast, was appointed by da Silva to head Brazil's National Information Technology Institute. Amadeu has written a book entitled "Digital Exclusion: Misery in the Information Era,” which focuses on the gap between the wealthy and the poor. His dream is to see Open Source
in government software usage, educational software usage and home computer usage. Right now, only about 10 percent of the population have home computers. Amadeu became well known when he launched a network of 86 free computer centers running Open Source software in Sao Paulo.

42 percent of Argentine companies use Linux and many are planning to use open source for all applications. Those countries that have created mandates for the public administration and the state to create plans to adopt open source in the coming years include Venezuela and Peru. Peru is unique in viewing the ownership and responsibility for the use of data and software as the citizens' right and this has become a political issue. Everywhere in South America, the government is the largest purchaser of software, but it is expected that there will be a trickle down effect to the private sector as well.

After announcements such as this, you can hardly expect the big players to remain silent. In the past few months, Microsoft is fighting fire with fire”: it has committed to working with open source products and has shown interest in adopting some aspects of the open source model. Probably the biggest step for the software giant was to accept software engineer Shawn Walker's terms that his Web content management system that was built on top of Microsoft's Windows remain as a free and open source system. That product, now called DotNetNuke, is to this day open source.

Microsoft's management software allows Microsoft customers to oversee Linux servers, and over the past year Microsoft has released development tools with their source code. This practice is not isolated, in fact, Microsoft expects to expand it.

Clearly, if governments choose open source, then Microsoft will follow suit. What will probably happen is Microsoft will use open source development to build some applications in order to win more corporate customers. Microsoft recognizes the need to offer open standard formats even if as yet they have not opened up their most popular word processing, spreadsheet and media formats. A step in the right direction: recently Microsoft hired more open source programmers who can help the company understand open source. This is a big switch from the days when Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, pronounced Linux and open source philosophy a “cancer.”

Today, programming software such as the open source LAMP which offers a development environment and database for free, and the free Linux with its 35.6 percent hike in server revenue to $1.3 billion [accounting for almost 1/10 of total worldwide server revenue] present a significant threat to all proprietary software companies who seek to gain customers and marketshare. Open source companies are now offering infrastructure middleware to compete with those of Microsoft, IBM and others.

Some experts say that although the open source offerings may be free, and offer the same things as the established software vendors, they still need to be integrated. Major software vendors also continue to offer the most state-of-the-art solutions.

Microsoft is obviously deeply entrenched in many organizations worldwide. In the case of Norway's decision, large organizations like the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and TV2 whose Internet interactive TV and radio transmissions are based primarily on Microsoft Media formats, may have a lot to lose. What will most likely change: large companies like Microsoft will refocus to offer whatever their existing customers need the most to be in compliance with the new order. And it would seem that the new dictate will probably open the door for employment: for an entire bevy of consultants and system integrators.


Sun Microsystems, Inc. announced it has completed the acquisition of Tarantella, Inc. Sun's investment in Tarantella underscores the company's commitment to an Open Source desktop delivered through the network.

With the close of this acquisition, Sun now owns all assets of a leading provider of software that enables organizations to access and manage information, data and applications across virtually all platforms, networks and devices. Putting Sun's R&D and marketing might behind Tarantella's technology allows the industry to deliver secure access to data and applications anywhere on virtually any Java enabled device as a service. Sun believes this capability will be a catalyst for accelerating the adoption of a utility computing model for the desktop and is extending an invitation to service providers, OEMs, device manufacturers
and others to build on these new business opportunities.

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