States, localities at open-source point

Or so says Input, which released a report stating state and local governments will lead the way in public-sector open source because they have tight IT budgets.

State and local governments will likely lead the way in adopting open-source software in the public-sector market as they continue to deal with tighter information technology budgets, market research firm Input says.

According to Input's report, the success of open-source operating systems in the government sector will depend on outside contracts with software specialists to develop applicable code, not from agencies coming together "as collective research groups for code sharing."

"Despite recent government initiatives to write their own software code, it is very unlikely that agencies will develop [open-source software] solutions on their own," said James Krouse, manager of Input's state and local market analysis, in a prepared statement.

"State agencies generally don't have the expertise and manpower to develop these solutions," he added. "Government agencies cannot currently keep up with the loss of seasoned technical personnel and will increasingly find that efforts to develop new software solutions will be extraordinarily difficult."

With open-source programs, such as the Linux operating system, users can read, modify and redistribute the source code for free although some vendors charge for their Linux distributions.

Open source would help governments reduce software license costs. Another catalyst for adopting open source is that governments need to better manage their systems to ensure "confidentiality, integrity and unobstructed accessibility to public information and data," according to an Input press release about the report.

A nationwide movement to seriously consider open-source software is gaining momentum.

For example, Los Angeles officials are exploring a switch to an open-source platform for their computer systems, which could potentially save millions of dollars in software licenses. The Government Open Code Collaborative was formed by more than 10 state and local agencies last year to share code in an attempt to also save money. According to Input, Microsoft has also initiated several programs to provide government entities access to Microsoft Windows source code.

Krouse said that as more governments turn to open-source software, a significant opportunity opens for service contractors that specialize in writing such code.

"State and local agencies will continue in an active review process for the next one to two years, but vendors should expect to see considerable bids or group bids surface in the long term," he said.

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