State, local governments warm to open source, research firm finds

State and local governments are giving more consideration to use of open-source code as another way to help relieve continuing budget pressures, according to market research firm Input Inc.

The Reston, Va.-based firm reported this month that state and local government agencies are leading the public-sector market in adopting open-source software solutions because of IT budget restraints, increasing hardware and software licensing costs, and the need to manage operations more aggressively than the federal government.

Open-source software allows users to review, modify and freely distribute underlying programming and operating-system computer code, giving the buyer control of the operating-system logic.

The success of government open-source operating systems is not likely to come from agencies banding together as collective research groups for code sharing. Instead, the quest for technically sound, open software code will mostly likely come from governments contracting out to software specialists to develop the applicable code.

'Despite recent government initiatives to write their own software code, it is very unlikely that agencies will develop OSS solutions on their own,' said James Krouse, Input's manager of state and local market analysis. He said state agencies generally don't have the expertise and manpower to develop these solutions.

In addition to cost savings, the adoption of open-source software is also being driven by a need for governments to comprehensively manage systems to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of and accessibility to public information and data.

Widespread adoption of open-source software should reduce overall state and local software spending, because the software is less expensive than proprietary solutions, Input said. In addition, the bulk of open-source software costs are in support services, which would classify the expenditures under professional services rather than software.

'As OSS is embraced by governments, we should see significant opportunities for service contractors that specialize in writing this code,' Krouse said. 'State and local agencies will continue in an active review process for the next one or two years, but vendors should expect to see considerable bids or group bids surface in the long term.'

William Welsh is a senior writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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