The pressure on public spending generally, and major IT projects specifically, is challenging the whole industry together with the government to deliver the very best value for the taxpayer and find alternative IT solutions that are just as good (if not better) as the old solutions.
There is a realisation now that there is a new way of procuring technology where superior technology at 95% less cost delivers better, new ways of doing business.
This pressure is disrupting the $20 billion proprietary lock-in business model to the point where vendors have to try and change their own way of doing business to compete and operate in the new commercial environment that the public sector is defining.
For example, Becta, the body leading the national drive to inspire and lead the effective and innovative use of technology throughout schools and colleges, this month negotiated a new subscription licensing agreement with Microsoft. This will considerably increase potential cost savings by removing the need for schools to pay Microsoft to license their entire estate.
Therefore if terminals are running competitor technologies (such as Linux and OpenOffice.org) or are technically incapable of running Microsoft they do not have to be licensed, a huge come down from Microsoft’s approach of old.
Of course, why they even had to pay license fees to Microsoft under these old terms in the first place is a fair question. Nevertheless, it is clear that the power of open source is fundamentally changing the procurement approach of the public sector. Indeed, Becta is running the first national Open Source Schools Unconference later this month; such is the uptake of open source by teachers and technical staff.
At both national and EU level, openness and transparency in IT is now the mantra. With the European Commission reshaping its standards policies to be more open, government bodies renegotiating contracts with proprietary vendors and placing open source at the heart of their strategy, and with opposition parties placing new IT procurement models at the heart of their policies, the public sector is leading the way defining the new economics of IT.
Roger Burkhardt serves as president and chief executive officer of Ingres. Prior to Ingres, Roger was the chief technology officer and executive vice president of the New York Stock Exchange, where he led a global technology team of 2,000 colleagues through the most important business and technology transformation in the Exchange's history: the shift to electronic trading. Under his leadership, the NYSE embraced open source solutions, maintained world-class reliability standards, and increased transaction volumes seven-fold.