IDG News Service - A new U.K. think tank launched on Monday will analyze how open-source software can be used in government and the private sector.
The National Open Centre in Birmingham, England, will comprise working groups that will study issues around open source, including the use of standards and procurement guidelines, said Ed Downs, of the National Computing Centre Ltd., a professional IT membership organization in Manchester, England.
Unlike other European countries, the U.K. lacked an organization dedicated to studying open-source software, he said.
"If open source and open standards can make a contribution, that's what we want to do," Downs said.
Many of the innovations on the Internet would not have been possible without open-source software, such as the Apache Web server, said Scott Thompson, one of the founders of the National Open Centre. Companies such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. use open source to drive down their software costs, he said.
Open source helps avoid traps such as vendor lock-in and higher costs associated with proprietary software, he said.
But using open source is fraught with risks as well as opportunities. Many public sector agencies are ignorant about open source, and misguided procurement policies have complicated open-source implementations, said John Pugh, a member of Parliament.
Some open-source companies have also struggled in selling their products and services, while their continued viability has been sometimes questionable, Pugh said.
The politics around open-source software are bitter, he said.
"Open source has enemies, and its enemies are very, very close to government," Pugh said.
Microsoft Corp. believes organizations don't care whether their software is open source or proprietary as long as it's the best product, said Jerry Fishenden, the company's U.K. national technology officer, who attended the launch.
About 5% of total IT spending in the U.K. is actually on the software itself, with the rest comprised of consulting fees, system integration costs and more, Fishenden said. Those costs are where organizations could make significant savings, he said.
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