Red Hat, Oracle, Sun, others join to pitch open source to feds

Open Source for America, a new industry organization, to be unveiled Wednesday at OSCON

More than 50 companies, academic institutions, and other organizations, including vendors such as Red Hat and Oracle, are banding together to promote use of open source by the federal government via an organization called Open Source for America.

Officially unveiled on Wednesday at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in San Jose, Calif., the organization is intended to capitalize on federal efforts to be more transparent and collaborative, organization members said. The federal government already has been using open source software, they recognized, but the new organization wants to further that cause.

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"Most every federal agency does have open source, but essentially it's a paradigm change," said Tom Rabon, executive vice president for corporate affairs at Red Hat, a key driving member along with Sun Microsystems in forming the organization.

"This organization came about as a result of a number of companies and academic institutions and organizations that believe that there was a void in Washington in terms of having sort of a unified voice for open source," Rabon said.

Immediate goals include educating federal decisions makers about and encouraging government agencies to give equal priority to open source software. Initially, the organization will have no employees; its affairs will be handled by a steering committee of organization members. Over time, there may a staff in Washington.

"We're mainly trying to create awareness right now," Rabon said.

The IT industry has been prone to forming industry-wide organizations for different causes, some with a degree of redundancy. But there has been none specifically for educating the federal government on open source, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, which also is participating in Open Source for America.

Among the missing from Open Source for America is Microsoft. But the company was not asked to participate, Zemlin said.

There currently are no membership fees for Open Source for America, but there may be over time, Rabon said.

Other participants in Open Source for America include Google, Mozilla, Software Freedom Law Center, Alfresco, Advanced Micro Devices, Democracy in Action, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jaspersoft, Ingres, and Open Source Initiative.

Open Source for America was slated to have a Web site at opensourceforamerica.org.

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