CUNY, Intel, and Red Hat Create Open-Source Laboratory for New York State

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 04, 2008

Red Hat, along with the City University of New York and Intel, announced yesterday that they are creating the "New York City Open Source Solutions Lab." This lab, which will be headquartered at CUNY's Institute for Software Design and Development in Manhattan, is aimed at helping local and state government agencies in New York take advantage of open-source solutions. The lab will provide governments with the ability to develop and test a variety of open-source technologies running on Intel chips.

Open-source advocates have long seen government as a perfect target audience -- because of its low cost, its commitment to standards, and its vendor neutrality. In addition, government agencies are seen as organizations that can contribute back to the open-source community, without having to fear that secret processes and algorithms, or other items that provide a competitive edge, will be revealed to the competition. Some advocates, especially those who align themselves with the "free software" movement, go so far as to say that governments have a moral responsibility to use open-source software, instead of purchasing and advocating commercial products. A number of national and local governments outside of the United States, have been pushing in recent years to use Linux and other open-source solutions instead of their proprietary counterparts.

The current economic climate, in which US state and local governments have found themselves struggling to fill their coffers, have given government agencies additional incentive to consider open-source solutions. By providing a single, centralized facility, these governments can not only pool their resources, but also share experiences, offer suggestions to colleagues in other agencies and locales, and develop solutions that are common to a variety of government functions.

Red Hat's involvement motivated in part by its interest in promoting Red Hat products to government agencies, which it sees as a potentially large target market. Indeed, one of the participants in the opening ceremony is Paul Smith, Red Hat's vice president of government sales operations. While Red Hat's software is distributed under an open-source license, its business model depends on annual subscription fees. It remains to be seen how strongly the lab will encourage governmental use of other Linux distributions, such as Debian, SuSE, and Ubuntu, which either lack a commercial subscription service or are sponsored by Red Hat's competitors.