UK firms are failing to exploit open source software as much as they might because of uncertainty about its business benefits.
That's the key finding of a report prepared for the UK Department of Trade and Industry by the National Computing Centre (NCC), which offers a series of recommendations to encourage use of the technology.
According to the NCC, quality standards for open source are uneven - open source operating systems compare favourably with proprietary infrastructure products, but this is not the case for office desktop and business systems applications. It calls for a wider, more co-ordinated development effort.
Dr. Andrew Hopkirk, head of research and development at the NCC, said: "the current use of open source software in the UK is a complex and fragmented picture, yet there is clearly great potential for cost savings and increased efficiency."
Interest in Open Source has increased in the light of rising licence costs of proprietary software. But difficulty in establishing accurate total cost of ownership benchmarks for computer systems is holding back adoption.
Assessing the quality and suitability of open source products, partly "due to the widely collaborative way in which they are developed", is also seen as an issue for users.
NCC's recommendations for the development of the market include:
- Availability of independent support and guidance to advise the professional IT user community on the availability and suitability of open source products
- The establishment of a National Library of Open Source software and compliance tests, to independently evaluate open source products for reliability and interoperability
- The creation of standards to promote excellence in open source software development, distribution, and operational implementation
- A national focus for the promotion of Open Technologies and Standards - including improved marketing through the support of pilot projects, the generation of case study material and the establishment of a clear cost of ownership model for open source software
- The setting up of an independent convenor of open source initiatives to co-ordinate and leverage market opportunities for UK organisations
Michael Gough, chief executive of NCC, said, "the UK would benefit greatly from the establishment of a stable alternative to the use of proprietary software, both in terms of business innovation and competitiveness, and in support of the UK software industry."
NCC's report Open Source - The UK Opportunity was compiled after in-depth interviews with 30 IT professionals, representative of a cross section of public and private organisations in the UK, some of whom had already adopted open source solutions. ®