A blog for the enterprise open source community
Governments want more commercial out of commercial open sourceJay Lyman, November 4, 2010 @ 11:48 am ET
The theme of this year’s GOSCON, from my perspective, was that governments remain eager to embrace open source software, and are no doubt already doing so in many cases, but there is still a great demand for more commercial backing of more open source. Even though we continue to see more official adoption and procurement of open source among public organizations, it seems clear after GOSCON there is a need for more awareness, but also for more commercial support of open source.
Governments are already accustomed to collaboration and are less competitive when it comes to IT. And while open source is a natural fit for this type of IT market, open source remains a mismatch in many regards. For example, the try-before-you-buy approach typical for open source software is quite contrary to typical government adoption, requests for proposals (RFPs) and procurement practices. We’ve known for some time that in order to use open source software, many government organizations simply treat it as ‘commercial off the shelf’ (COTS) software. However, we continue to see immense opportunity for commercial supporters, backers and service providers centered on open source software — particularly in places, such as government and also healthcare, financial services, insurance and telecommunications — where there are certifications, requirements, approvals and specific processes and procedures for those wishing to sell software and services. These are the ideal tasks for a vendor, which has the structure and discipline to cut through the bureaucratic red tape, and less ideal for software developers, who rightfully should be focused on the code, rather than certifications for it.
We see an increasing awareness of this opportunity, particularly in government sales channels, where system integrators such as Autonomic Resources, Momentum SI and others are adopting, incorporating, supporting and providing open source software to customers. This is also the subject of a special 451 Group Spotlight report to be published soon.
Yet, based on my conversations and interactions at GOSCON and others in the public IT sector, there are still many government users that are ready and willing to use open source software, but need more commercial assurance behind it. At the same time, as indicated by our recent research on business models and the demands of customers and vendors, users and customers want multi-vendor and community open source software. I believe this highlights the desire for the continued assurance and option of a community version, but there is also demand for commercial backing, particularly in government. Just as this desire for flexibility ranging from a free, community version to an enhanced, more scalable, supported or feature-rich paid version can be a factor of customer demand for open core models, I believe government customers want the full range of options, particularly paid options so they can satisfy public agency adoption and procurement requirements.
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