The IT manager of a potential reference site for Linux in the New Zealand public sector, Rob Herries of Housing New Zealand, said the organization “doesn’t get asked very much” about Linux and the open-source approach by other government agencies.

His comments follow Brendan Boyle, New Zealand’s e-government unit chief, and Deidre Butler, convenor of Govis, the government information managers’ forum, last week reporting no clamor for open-source information, in contrast to a demand for such information in Australia.

Herries ascribed the low level of interest to a focus among government agencies on front-end applications and tools like Web portals, rather than on infrastructural elements like the operating system. “To me that (software infrastructure) is critical,” he said.

Housing NZ has been a partial Linux user since 1998, and its IT department is putting a case before management to convert the rest of its applications currently on Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Unix variant HP-UX, to Red Hat Inc.’s Linux. This will take it out of vulnerability to “proprietary” software and bring reduced cost, Herries said.

He cautioned, however, that even some Linux distributors and application vendors are becoming more commercially minded. Red Hat has produced an “advanced server” version of its operating system, carrying an annual support charge, and Oracle Corp. is certifying some of its most important applications, such as the 9i database system, to work only with the advanced server version and not other versions of Red Hat.

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