The current practice of public procurement of IT solutions is a barrier to the development of a healthy industry of open source service providers, says Jim Whitehurst, the Chief Executive Officer at Red Hat. He also says that public administrations and open source software are a natural fit, since this type of software allows them to share and reuse software solutions.
The CEO and president of open source specialist Red Hat, who was in Brussels on Wednesday, says that "procurement tends to favour the incumbents". He says that proprietary software vendors provide procurement officers with 'laundry list of features', that they can add to their procurement documents.
"The procuring organisation does not use or need most of these features, but by listing them it can make sure that it gets 'any operating system out there, as long as it is the usual proprietary one'."
Such practices limit the growth of the open source industry. Whitehurst says that public policies that encourage public administrations to turn to open source solutions would help open source companies to grow. "There is a reason that we're the only publicly traded open source company."
Red Hat's business is growing far more rapidly in other sectors than government. And the uptake by European governments lags behind those in the United States. "Military and security agencies represent some of our largest customers, but we are slowly branching out into other segments of government. From here we're slowly branching out into other segments of government."
He says that it is similar to how Red Hat got started as a company in the United States. "Those branches of government want us because of the performance and security of our solutions."
Public administrations and open source go together naturally, believes Whitehurst. Public administrations should be sharing and reusing each other's software solutions, he says. "Instead of, for instance, each health care organisation paying different system integrators large sums, they should solve their common needs. The same is true for social services, education and all other parts of government."