The UK government’s recent pledge to use open source as a means to cut the deficit is a milestone in the further commercialisation of the free software movement. By Helen Beckett [Published 28/09/2010].
Bill McCluggage, UK government’s deputy chief information officer will use OS to "simplify, standardise and automate". Given a fresh impetus by the recession, open source is now a sector with a labour market and opportunities for IT professionals who want to make a living from free software.
Birmingham City Council announced last week that it is assessing open source software as part of a £330m cost-cutting programme but also expects it to lead a ‘revolution’ in council affairs. It joins many organisations in the private and public sectors that have turned to open source in order to secure savings but are finding other advantages in the process.
"Over the past few years, open source has advanced a lot and is recognised for its innovation as well as being a cheaper alternative", says Irenie White, operations and marketing coordinator for open source consultancy, Credativ.
Examples, detailed by Chris Halls, managing director of Credativ, include the features available under VoIP (Voice over IP) OS. "A customer approached us because the proprietary VoIP they used did not allow conferencing facilities with corporations because of their firewall restrictions."
While the ability to customise and add features at an affordable price is a come-on for many Credativ customers, others simply want the basic package and support because they lack skills the in-house, said Halls.
The sector has expanded in the last two years, according to Credative whose customers number T-Mobile, borough councils as well as proponents of openness and freedom, the Liberal Democrats. "Price is still a significant factor, but many customers want to use it to obtain a feature that is not available on the equivalent commercial platform."
So what does it take to become an Open Source ‘employee’?
• Recruiters will look at whether candidates have been involved in the community through bug fixes or submissions. Having been a Linux user or using it on a project is usually not enough.
• Linux Group mailing lists are one of the first places that technically savvy recruiters will look.
• Some contributions are more significant technically than others. It can be relatively straightforward to suggest a fix for a particular problem - but does this fix have implications for the wider project that have been overlooked?
• It’s helpful to be able to code in a spread of languages. Java, C++ and Perl are popular.
• An ability to step aside from the tech realm and to have a conversation with a client in order to explain the benefits and implications of using particular Open Source software is essential.
Thanks to Credativ.
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