A deal has been struck to allow agencies throughout New Zealand's government access to open-source software and support from Novell at preferential rates.
The arrangement is a syndicated procurement contract, according to which a lead agency does the main deal and others are allowed access to the same products and services on the same terms.
The lead agency in this case is Inland Revenue, which Novell has been supplying with its networking software for many years, as well as more recently with open-source product for a pilot.
The deal will center on Novell's SUSE Linux server and its Linux Desktop, but agencies will also be able to access other open-source products such as MySQL and Jboss with full support, says Novell NZ general manager Matthew Christie.
The arrangement follows successes with the Education Department and a pilot at District Health Boards.
Novell has, however, been in "conversation" with the State Services Commission about a syndicated open source deal for about a year, Christie says. The discussions came to a head, he says because of the increasing maturity of Linux-based software and support for it from a number of vendors.
Laurence Millar, the SSC's deputy commissioner for ICT says "this agreement marks increased opportunities for government agencies, giving them greater flexibility and freedom in their choice of software."
He emphasizes, however, that "government agencies will make their purchasing decisions [independently] based on cost, functionality, interoperability and security.
"Open source is a viable alternative or, in some cases, a complementary option to proprietary solutions," Millar says. "This deal provides a framework for other government agencies to introduce or augment their use of Open Source solutions.
"Robust competition in the government software market is good for New Zealand and has the added advantage of ensuring the government avoids dependence on a limited range of software products and services," Millar says.
IRD IT manager Ross Hughson says the move was a logical outgrowth of a renewal of the department's licence with Novell. "With SSC encouragement, we appreciate it's a good idea to make these things all-of-government if you can, as we did with our agreement with Acer for desktops and HP for laptops. I liken it to GSN [the planned Govenment Shared Network]; just as small departments will be able to link to that and get the benefit of government buying power, so they will be able to do the same with an arrangement like this." -- Computerworld New Zealand Online