Sita OSS tender winners cautiously optimistic

By   |  February 28, 2006

A cautious optimism is running through the open source industry after Sita awarded potentially South Africa’s biggest open source deal last week.

Eight companies – Business Connexion, Gijima, Choice Technologies, IBM, ImpiLinux, Novell, Obsidian Systems and Sourcecom — have been selected to be the suppliers of open source software and support services to the government and Sita over the next three years.

The transversal contract means that government departments now have the option of “deploying OSS solutions where and when required”. However, no government departments are compelled to migrate to open source.

Open source business development manager at IBM South Africa, Joe Ruthven, believes the tender announcement is a milestone for open source in the country. “It’s definitely government putting a stake in the ground and saying look we’re serious about this [and] this is not just talk.”

Government departments now know that there is a Sita-endorsed open source “workable solution”, he says.

“Every individual department now has their own decisions to make, whether they want to do a Linux open source migration … and if so, which of those eight vendors to choose,” says Ruthven

“For them to now make a decision, there are guidelines. They don’t have to sit with this dilemma of making a decision between the 320 different Linux distros out there,” he says, adding that that IBM is presently discussing migration options with a number of government departments.

“Now its up to the vendors to close the business,” says Gary Fortuin, MD of ImpiLinux, the only company to offer an Ubuntu solution on the list.

Fortuin says ImpiLinux is looking first to Sita for a contract. He believes once government departments see open source solutions working from within the technology agency, they will be more confident to move to open source.

“Obviously we will punt things like our local content, our local players, the fact that we have an international partner in Ubuntu and Canonical,” says Fortuin.

“Hopefully this shows more and more people that Linux on the desktop is ready for the enterprise,” says Obsidian Systems MD Muggie van Staden.

“We are cautious, we don’t want to start getting too excited. It all depends on whether there will be departments going this route,” he says.

“We are on the shopping list. The question is: will someone start shopping now?”

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