Government demonstrates open source resilience

Oracle Corp. is showing its commitment to the South African government’s stated objective of running open source shops across a number of its departments, throwing its full weight behind this initiative, to authenticate the concept of “unbreakable Linux.”

Oracle’s unbreakable Linux strategy embodies the company’s commitment to Linux that began in 1999. Oracle collaborates with, and provides first-line support for, distributions from Red Hat Inc. and UnitedLinux, and has also certified its database on Red Hat, offering Linux some impetus for moving into the high-end enterprise market.

The process of recommending an open source software strategy to government is well underway, with the open source centre of the CSIR embodying an advisory, and, ultimately, implementation role. The task of proving the viability of open source software (OSS) will, however, fall to key industry players, such as Oracle, Novell Inc. and IBM Corp.

While open source makes sense for many state departments, they need advice on procedure and support. The CSIR is key to providing information to each department relevant to their situation. Its approach can best be described as one that advocates, enables and empowers through knowledge, to ensure that government departments make educated decisions and an informed judgment call about OSS on a case-by-case basis. The CSIR will provide information, coordinate, and facilitate the best course of action accordingly.

“In government it is not always easy for departments to prove which will be the most viable ICT option. At the one extreme, totally open source solutions encompass an open platform, in line with the typical open source model. At the other extreme, products run on proprietary platforms, with hidden development and licence costs. There is also a wide range of permutations in between, with the open source commercial model, for example, offering products that run on open source, but do not constitute open source in themselves,” said Nhlanhla Mabaso, manager of the CSIR’s open source centre.

While cost is a key driver for government, it is not a determining factor in choosing the open source route. Government is interested in open source for a number of other reasons, including the stability and reliability achieved if it is developed and used correctly. The support from big-brand vendors will, however, make tenable the freedom, control and options of open source, with security taking top priority for government.

The extent to which open source will permeate the corridors of government will be made evident through a technology demonstration facility based at the CSIR. “Oracle, among other vendors, will be showcasing the strength of open source software-based solutions, and how these solutions can form part of a successful open source strategy for government,” said Tshepo Letsie, public sector director, Oracle Africa.

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