Hungary Says Yes To Open Source – But Keeps The Lion’s Share For Microsoft

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ULX, Red Hat and other  open source solution providers can now tender for public sector IT contracts in Hungary – but half still goes to Microsoft

European open source vendors are celebrating a decision by the Hungarian government that allows them to compete for a share of public sector contracts – even though half the IT budget is still reserved for Microsoft.

International software firm, Red Hat and Hungarian ULX Open Source Consulting & Distribution have emerged as winners in a tender process organised by the Hungarian state’s Central Services Directorate (KSzF) in April 2009, to achieve a place on the approved list of IT vendors for the Hungarian public sector.

The winning vendors will now be able to deliver open source solutions to public sector organisations, public and higher education institutions for the first time from central list of approved public sector IT vendors – and they hope to use this victory to strengthen their case in other EU-area countries including Switzerland.

The Hungarian Government list previously only included proprietary products, naming Microsoft and Novell as the only choices with an allocated sum of 25 billion Hungarian Forint (HUF or 80 million Euros, £27.5 million) available for use each year.

Approval to appear on the list allows IT providers to compete for the HUF 24 billion (£77.2 million) public sector organisations are allowed to spend on extending software licences, inlcuding upgrades, changes and new software.

Half of the funding is still allocated fo r Microsoft products, and a quarter for Novell products, with the remaining 6 billion HUF (£19.3 million) open for acquiring open source and open standards solutions.

Apart from ULX and Red Hat, the other open source providers chosen in the centralised list of vendors are FEFO, Freesoft, Kventa, Multiráció, WSH and Navigator.

ULX will deliver open source solutions to two groups of organisations: the first group of public sector organisations who are legally obliged to get their IT needs from the centralised IT providers list, and the other group is the public and higher education institutions.

This will include the delivery of a portfolio consisting of Red Hat’s entire enterprise infrastructure stack from the operating system, data centre solutions to the JBoss middleware solutions as well as solutions belonging to Red Hat’s ecosystem such as Zimbra, the open source messaging and collaboration software and the open source database software enterprise version of Postgres.

ULX has built its available solutions portfolio so it can serve the needs of a small city council, the local school as well as larger data centres of any government public sector institutions.

“The signing of this contract is the fruit of years of hard work and lobbying, as finally open source solutions are included in centralised software tenders in Hungary”, commented Gábor Szentiványi, chief executive of ULX which is Hungary’s largest enterprise open source provider and Red Hat’s top partner in the country.

He added that he hoped the same success could be achieved by open source – also including Red Hat – who are currently trying to similarly open up a government tendering process in Switzerland – although that dispute is currently going Microsoft’s way.

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“We feel that a major obstacle has finally come down. Public sector organisations will have an opportunity to consider open source solutions as a viable alternative to proprietary solutions for the first time, an opportunity that for most centralised offices wasn’t an option before.

Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation in Europe told eWEEK Europe the agreement was “a very positive step for free software.”

“Other countries in Europe should take note,” Gerloff added. “The inclusion of free software companies in such lists is an easy and effective step to let public bodies benefit from taxpayers’ money being spent more responsibly.”


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