NICTA, IBM unite for open source development

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IBM Australia and Commonwealth technology research agency NICTA have announced a three-year joint venture program focused on boosting the performance of open source software such as Linux to smooth the progress of uptake of such software into enterprise computing.

The project, which NICTA claims is the first of a number of formal research collaborations designed to develop the IT sector in Australia, will run under the Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS), a new initiative that was announced by IBM in Sydney today. The project will be undertaken by NICTA at its University of New South Wales site.

The CAS provides an umbrella organisational structure, through which IBM will consolidate the $40 million it invests annually in national research, filtered to 15 existing research relationships and projects running in Australia currently. The CAS, which is the first created by IBM outside North America, will provide researchers with access to IBM's worldwide research resources.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Richard Alston, said that a few years ago the IT industry in Australia was “at the crossroads” and lacked “critical mass” in the development space. Alston said that collaboration with multinationals such as IBM through the centre and the formation of NICTA marked the IT industry “coming of age” in Australia and could increase Australian talent.

He also claimed it has “the potential to ensure Australian companies have access to alternative operating systems on which to base their products”.

“There are goals to be kicked here in Australia,” Senator Alston said. “Today is a rite of passage that we really should be celebrating.”

While trumpeting open source development and its migration into enterprise computing, interim chief executive of NICTA, Professor Brian Anderson, said “In the end it will be the marketplace that sorts out the relative role of open source software and proprietary software.”

IBM Australia chief executive Philip Bullock said: "Open source is key to the future of business as it enables greater levels of connectivity and integration within an organisation and with its business partners, customers and suppliers."

Bullock added that the CAS was designed to strengthen links between IBM's global research infrastructure and the Australian academic and research community.

The first phase of the joint-venture program will involve seconded staff from the organisations as well as PhD and honours students from the University, and will be conducted in close cooperation with IBM's Canberra-based Linux technology centre.

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