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

Anzac Issue Out Now: Werewolf 47

Alison McCulloch: Lest We Remember

Local iwi have plans to spruce up the Te Ranga site as part of the 150th commemorations this year of key battles in the “New Zealand Wars”, but not a lot of money to do it with.

Information gathered from numerous government agencies shows that while more than $25 million is being spent on monuments and commemorations relating to foreign wars, primarily World War I and its centenary, only around $250,000 has been set aside for those fought on our own soil. More>>

Anne Russell: Anzac Day - Identity Politics, With Guns

Even cursory research into media reports from the past forty years reveals a cultural shift in the commemoration of Anzac Day. Among other things, turnout at Dawn services has increased significantly in recent decades.

Contemporary numbers are estimated at 3,000-4,000 in Wellington, and 10,000-15,000 in Auckland. Newspaper reports from the 1970s and 80s estimated Wellington turnouts at 300-800, and Auckland at anywhere from 600 to 4,000. More>>

 
 

Parliament Today:

Spookwatch: New Inspector-General Of Intelligence And Security Appointed

Prime Minister John Key hasannounced the appointment of Cheryl Gwyn as Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The appointment was made by the Administrator of the Government on behalf of the Governor General and is for a term of three years. More>>

Crowdsourcing: Green Party Launches Internet Rights And Freedoms Bill

The Green Party has today launched the Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill, New Zealand’s first ever Bill crowdsourced by a political party. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Shane Jones Departure

Shane Jones has left Parliament in the manner to which we have become accustomed, with self interest coming in first and second, and with the interests of the Labour Party (under whose banner he served) way, way back down the track. More>>

COMMENT:

Multimedia: PM Post-Cabinet Press Conference - April 22 2014

The Prime Minister met with reporters to discuss: • The recent improvement in the economy with a growing job market • Income and wealth inequality • Easter trading laws • The New Zealander killed in a drone strike in Yemen... More>>

ALSO:

Easter Trading: Workers 'Can Kiss Goodbye To Easter Sunday Off'

The Government’s decision to “reprioritise” scarce labour inspector resources by abandoning the enforcement of Easter Sunday Shop Trading laws means workers can kiss goodbye to a guaranteed day off, says Labour’s Associate Labour Issues spokesperson Darien Fenton. More>>

ALSO:

ACT Don't Go For Maximum Penalty: Three Strikes For Burglary, Three Years Jail

Three strikes for burglary was introduced to England and Wales in 1999. As in New Zealand, burglary was out of control and given a low priority by the police and the courts. A Labour government passed a three strikes law whereby a third conviction for burglaries earned a mandatory three years in prison... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Drone Strikes And Judith Collins‘ Last Stand

The news that a New Zealand citizen was killed last November in a US drone attack in Yemen brings the drones controversy closer to home. More>>

ALSO:

Elections: New Electorate Boundaries Finalised

New boundaries for the country’s 64 General and seven Māori electorates have been finalised – with an additional electorate created in Auckland. More>>

ALSO:

Policies: Labour’s Economic Upgrade For Manufacturing

Labour Leader David Cunliffe has today announced his Economic Upgrade for the manufacturing sector – a plan that will create better jobs and higher wages. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Life And ACC Work Of Sir Owen Woodhouse

With the death of Sir Owen Woodhouse, the founding father of the Accident Compensation Scheme, New Zealand has lost one of the titans of its post-war social policy. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
Parliament
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news