The Subtle Art of Open Source Migrations


Here's an interesting story about enterprise open source in Australia:

Suncorp's CIO, Jeff Smith, says he would like the banking and insurance giant to use open source software for its 20,000 desktops, which currently run Windows XP.

This is clearly some way off. More important, to my mind, than these tantalising numbers were some of the things that Smith had to say about the advantages of open source:

"If you look at Web and application servers, the open source environment is fine. But that's not where the real advantage is. The real advantage is in the capabilities that are being built now — identity management, access management, and even messaging. There have been some phenomenal open source technologies for that.

"So we're driving that quite hard and we've actually deployed a number of applications, not just with open source operating environments — Linux, Tomcat and Apache — those are the easy things. Where you really get the value is taking a look at things like underwriting engines, or pricing engines — things that are open source components and you plug into your environment," he said.

This is a fairly sophisticated way of looking at free software. Smith also made an interesting comment about bringing in open source on the desktop:

"The real biggest issue has been interoperability ... as soon as you have interoperability of documents — because it's really tied into Office — then you have a real opportunity to have open source at the desktop," he said.

Much hangs on exactly how Microsoft implements its promised support of ODF. If it's done properly, it will make migrations to and even GNU/Linux easy - which is why I remain sceptical about Microsoft's intentions in this area.