Council trials find open source offers no short-term cost savings

Using open-source software in desktop and server packages offers no short-term savings. That was the initial finding of a trial...

Using open-source software in desktop and server packages offers no short-term savings. That was the initial finding of a trial at Newham Council in East London, which pitted open-source products against proprietary rivals.

As part of the trial, first reported by Computer Weekly on 21 October, Microsoft provided the council with consultancy services from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in an effort to prove its products offered better value than open-source alternatives.

Newham Council IT director Richard Steel said, "The tests we conducted with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young were very helpful as they substantiated many of the values we already held about open source. We have yet to come to a conclusion about the longer term."

The crucial comparisons were for costs beyond the typical five-year software licensing deals offered by Microsoft, he added.

Matt Lambert, director of government affairs at Microsoft Europe, said, "We are glad that they are looking very seriously at how to gain best cost efficiencies and are pleased that, in the short term, Microsoft solutions have proved to be the best value."

Eddie Bleasdale, Linux consultant and director at Net Project, which set up Newham’s open-source trial, said, "We always advocate a heterogeneous IT environment when it comes to Linux and Microsoft.

"Adopting open source would not make savings for Newham in the short term because the council uses Microsoft Exchange 5.5, and this does not interface with Linux. Therefore the council would have to upgrade its systems to cope, incurring extra costs."

Bleasdale added that the council would have to build up its internal Linux skills, which would add to staff costs. In the longer term, he said, open source would provide savings.

Newham Council is due to make a decision on its longer-term option next month. Its choice is likely to be closely watched by other public-sector organisations.

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