Open Source Weekend gets down to business

With the mercury dipping in Ottawa, the penguins will feel right at home as the open source and Linux communities gather for the second annual Open Source Weekend.

Install fests at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa will

showcase some practical open source applications on Saturday, but the meat of the weekend will come during the Business of Open Source Conference on Sunday.

Conference organizer Dave Edwards says the idea behind is to try and get some mainstream attention for open source, and not just preach to the converted. They expect 350 people for each day of activities.

While a lot of the hype around Linux and open source has faded with the dot-com bubble burst, Edwards says the activity since then has been more substantial.

“In the last year there’s been a lot of pretty incredible developments in the world of open source software,” says Edwards. “A lot of very mainstream companies have adopted open source as a way of taking control of their IT departments, and have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The conference keynote speaker will be Martin Fink, general manager of Hewlett-Packard’s Linux systems division and author of The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source. Also, a panel of local IT and business leaders will look at the challenges facing the practical adoption of open source into mainstream environments.

“The focus is on the challenges of adopting open source in all sectors of the business world, whether it be on the desktop or in the server room,” says Edwards. “What you need to know about transition from legacy environments, about licensing, expenditures, all kinds of practical issues.”

A challenge Joseph Potvin sees is one of marketing, and building awareness of open source solutions as an option for mainstream businesses and the government sector.

Potvin, who will be taking part in the panel discussion, is manager of enterprise architecture in the architecture and standards directorate of Public Works and Government Services Canada. From his perspective in the government sector, Potvin says government is not making as full use of open source solutions as it could be. It’s something he’s working to change, since he says open source is often the fastest, best and cheapest way to do the job.

“Our goal is understanding the open source business model, broadly, why it works, why it makes sense for organizations of many types to share out code, and why it makes sense on the other side for users of software to include open source in their catalogue,” says Potvin.

The important thing, he says, is that when someone in government is looking for a technology solution, they include the entire spectrum of technology options in their selection process.

Oftentimes, the procurement people don’t realize that open source options are available, and conversely the people behind open source software aren’t aware that there may be requirements for those solutions in government.

“Fundamentally, it’s a lack of awareness, and it’s easily explainable,” says Potvin. “When software is being shared out, the investments being made by public, private and academic contributors are in the software, there’s typically not a marketing budget behind these things. There’s awareness raising to be done on all sides.”

To help with that process, the government has recently commissioned a study on open source business opportunities to do a profile of supply and demand for open source solutions in Canada, something Potvin says doesn’t really exist right now. The study will also identify and define the various approaches to open source.

“When software selection is being done it’s important to understand what licence you’re including, and also, when government is creating software solutions in house or contracting them out, its important to understand what the various licensing models are,” says Potvin.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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