[clug] Any Public Service organisations using Linix desktop and Open Office?

Daniel Rose drose at nla.gov.au
Thu Jul 3 03:41:47 GMT 2008

Note that I have never been in a management or purchasing role, but this is my understanding:

If you have a stable, installed base of windows computers, and the per-seat licencing is very cheap, then you need a very convincing business case to change, and pricing won't cut it.

While it's easy to put together a case for a cheaper FOSS environment, it's harder to make it cheap enough to justify the risk involved.

All change carries risk.  In the short term there are big costs involved in the change, such as the IT staff turnover, and the time required to make the changes.  The "missing" or "broken" features of the new environment will be noticed by staff right away, whereas the features and other benefits that FOSS might have will take longer to be discovered by each staff member without expensive training.

In general, one could argue that in business you need to take risks to make money.  It's not just that the Government executives are risk-averse for selfish career reasons, it's more that they are not running for-profit entities.  In general this is a good thing, Government departments should not use public money in risky endeavours.

Now the cost per seat from MS for OEM/Select/academic/Govt pricing is so low as a fraction of the desk/phone/PC/wages cost that there's a fairly small percentage savings to be made financially.  In any case, if the business unit uses the must spend budgeting system (or whatever the proper name is!) then they will only need to find something else to buy instead so as not to have a smaller budget next year.

I can see a few ways widespread adoption of a FOSS OS in a govt dept might come about:

1) Evangelical drive from the boss/CIO, which is not the 'right' way to do things.

2) A niche product that's really the absolutely best tool for the specific work being done that's Linux only

3) A long run of job applicants who consistently refuse to work in a Windows environment

4) Government regulation (again, not the right way things should work)

5) A doubling or more of the price of Windows+Office relative to the overall workstation costs

6) A whole new approach from vendors.  Tentatively.... I can imagine a single FOSS vendor with FOSS-savvy staff who can sell, supply and manage the lot under an outsourced model, with generous contracts and maybe even money in escrow.  This would not necessarily be very profitable for the vendor, but if you have a big backer (Canonical haven't made profit yet, as I understand it) then a department might agree.  This means hardware, OS, software, helpdesk, firewalls, VOIP, network monitoring and reporting, email, the entire IT setup as a commodity.  I think if you can do this, and deliver on promises to add or fix things the department thinks are missing or broken, then they might say yes.  The idea is to extract the residual value between the high risk that CIOs might think FOSS has, and the low risk that FOSS experts are confident that it doesn't have.  However, I'm not sure that you can make much money though, especially if the FOSS experts want salaries comparable with tho
se offered by the private sector to do more interesting work!

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