Earlier today I had an interesting conversation with a vendor that supports an open source product in the area of application infrastructure. They started from Australia, where their product was deployed several years ago across multiple agencies, and have since moved to Europe.
We were discussing whether emerging government policies around open source, such as the one in the UK (see Gartner research note – subscription required) would change the attitudes of government departments and agencies toward the adoption of open source software.
The UK policy puts quite some emphasis on how system integrators and other IT service providers should consider open source alternatives when bidding for government work. The client confirmed that this is having a tangible impact, as several system integrators have made contact with them to add the product to their portfolio. This vendor, which has traditionally offered its own implementation services, was not expecting to be contacted by so many large and small system integrators without even soliciting them.
We then touched upon the peculiarity of the US government market for open source. There, the fiscal crisis in some states may create completely different opportunities, with government clients starting to rely on open source implementations that would be initially supported by internal staff or in-house contractors, to then be awarded to open source product suppliers themselves. This was the story of SugarCRM at the Department of Human Services in Oregan (see Gartner research note – subscription required): the reason to use an open source CRM system there was not lack of money but lack of time (the normal procurement process would have taken ages).
On a related note, also at the US federal level, where budgets won’t be hit as hard as at state or local level, open source alternatives may find their way through in order to respond more rapidly to new requirements from the stimulus package or other emergency measures.