Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 


Nandor Tanczos – The Open Source Revolution

28 june 2006

Nandor Tanczos – The Open Source revolution

At one level, the open-source revolution has been won. When you use a Nokia phone, trade on eBay or do a Google search you're using open-source technology. Open-source pioneers such as Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, fiercely believed in the need to liberate cyberspace from the grip of proprietary vendors such as Unix and Microsoft.

They enabled Swedish student Linus Torvalds to prove - with the invention of the Linux operating system - their basic point, that computer codes and standards that are freely used, modified and re-distributed create more robust and flexible solutions than those emanating from proprietary vendors.

To me, open source has been a perfect illustration of the Green Party belief that an open, co-operative decision path makes the most ethical, economic and environmental sense.

But can open source also render New Zealand firms more profitable? Yes, provided we're looking at this solely through the crude cost slashing lens. True, there are short-term savings from escaping certain forms of licensing fees and mandatory upgrades. However, overseas experience indicates that the economic benefits mainly accrue from the paradigm shift involved - open source fosters a better sense of the tasks facing the firm, while offering more flexible and enduring solutions.

Those savings are substantial. Earlier this year, international consulting firm Optaros reported that US companies with US$1 billion-plus revenue saved US$3.4 million on average during 2004 by using open source, medium-sized firms saved US$1.5 million, while small companies making less than US$50 million saved about US$500,000 on average.

Less cosmically, the question is: Why should a business invest in a multi-million dollar mainframe and pay for the support agreements around several proprietary systems? Employing one team to support a Linux operating system with six or eight Intel boxes running off it could cost about $80,000 each - and still provide a business with as much if not more processing power.

True, there is no free lunch. Chances are, a business may still have a support agreement for Red Hat or SUSE or for whatever brand of Linux it wishes to deploy. But the cost savings mainly lie in having one support team looking after Linux rather than paying for multiple operating systems, as well as in having applications that are completely portable and upgradeable.

This revolution is being won. By reliable estimates 15 to 20 per cent of the computing done in New Zealand enterprises utilises some form of open source, and much is being driven in-house, by work groups rather than by top management.

So what are the residual hurdles? There is the perception of legal risks. Firms do need to be aware of what can and can't be done under the end-user license agreements for the open-source software. Even the general public license created by Stallman - which grants any user the right to copy, modify and redistribute programmes and source code from developers that have chosen to license their work under it - requires governance of the chopped up and redistributed bits of code. With experience though, those legal concerns are receding.

Inertia remains the proprietary vendor's best friend. Firms feel secure about being locked into a support deal with a proprietary vendor, and they take all the downsides that go with that captivity as the price to pay.

But there are support systems out there - from IBM to the Slashdot community - and because a firm is deploying open codes and standards, the fix-it solution is usually easier and cheaper to achieve.
There's another reason to champion open source. Government is about devising enduring solutions and making them openly accessible through time. Access by the public to records of governance _ and by Government to its own administrative history _ should not be at the whim of a proprietary vendor with the market power to render the tools of access extinct by boardroom decree.

Here, the portability and flexibility of Linux _ and the reliability of offerings such as Apache, Mozilla,, MySQL, SUSE and Red Hat _ provides a viable alternative. The fact the paper trail with open source is so
much more transparent renders the Government legacy more sustainable.

From Australia to Germany to Israel to China, central and local governments are actively promoting the switch to open-source technology and are effectively closing the door on the Microsoft business model. In Asia, there is a reluctance to be tied to US vendor monopolies.

Can Government do more to foster private-sector confidence in open-source processes? Already, Inland Revenue, some district health boards and education outlets are moving to embrace this technology, which should boost confidence in it. An attitude shift is required. Freedom can be just another word for something left to choose, and open source delivers its benefits by maximising those choices. Sometimes this happens through allied social movements such as Creative Commons. At other times it is through giving firms the opportunity to actively configure their own solutions to the needs that they define.

*********

Scoop note - this opinion piece from Green MP Nandor Tanczos originally ran in the NZ Herald. Nandor Tanczos is the Green Party's spokesman for technology and telecommunications and is an advocate of open-source software.

ENDS



© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Christchurch Fires: Friday Morning Update

Slightly cooler weather conditions and higher humidity with some light rain having fallen early this morning is welcome relief for emergency services fighting the Port Hills fire in Christchurch..

It has been a quiet night with a few minor flare ups contained by fire crews. Thermal imaging is being used to identify hot spots. There is a lot of work to do to clean up the whole fire area and this will go on for several days.

Te Hapua Welfare Centre remains open with a small amount of people staying there. Nga Hau E Wha Marae and the Selwyn welfare centre have been closed. Police cordons are still in place and these areas are still considered dangerous. The situation is being constantly reassessed and we will provide further information as soon as it is available. More>>

 
 

Turnbull Visit: Leaders’ Talks Cement Trade Relations, Science Agreement

Mr English met with Prime Minister Turnbull in Queenstown today to discuss common approaches to bilateral and international issues, including trade and science and innovation. Mr English also thanked Mr Turnbull for Australia’s offer of support for those fighting the fires on the Port Hills in Christchurch. More>>

ALSO:

Youth Guarantee: Upskilling Fund Used For Retraining

News that one in five of the people enrolling in Youth Guarantee already hold qualifications at the level they’re enrolling in highlights the failure of the scheme to reach the disengaged young people it was set up to assist, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On What Trump May Mean For Us

So far not much effort has been put into tracing the possible implications for New Zealand of the stream of executive orders and tweets that have been pouring from the Oval Office. Unfortunately, we may not simply be drive-by rubberneckers at this car wreck for much longer. More>>

Pike River Select Committee: Solid Energy Chair Talks Resignation Over Re-Entry

Andy Coupe, chair of failed state-owned coal miner Solid Energy, said at a fiery select committee this morning that he would consider resigning if the government orders the company to re-enter the Pike River coal mine. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Labour’s Candidacy Troubles

So its official. Greg O’Connor will indeed be Labour’s candidate in Ohariu and – as also signaled well in advance – the Greens will not be standing a candidate in the electorate. At this point, you have to question the validity of the Greens’ excuse – “we need to change the government” – for tagging along.... More>>

ALSO:

Post-Shooting Security: Guards Say WINZ Safety Protocols Unsafe

“The safety issue has moved from inside WINZ offices to outside where security guards are isolated in front of locked doors with nowhere to retreat if they need help,” says Len. More>>

ALSO:

PM’s Press Conference: Housing, Housing, Housing

Questions from the gallery focused on housing, asking about the Auckland Unitary Plan, the potential skills and resource shortage and whether NZ would seek help from overseas. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Parliament
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news