Local firms team up for open-source software
A group of Thai software firms calling itself the Business for Open Source Society (Boss) is gearing up for a big push to increase the use of open-source software among Thai businesses.
Among other things it is forming local software companies into cooperative clusters of open-source specialists and is planning to launch open-source training courses for local software developers and end users.
Boss was formed last year under the auspices of the Association of Thailand Open Source Federation. It began with eight founder members, and now has 10. They are all local software houses expert in different areas of open-source software.
The term open-source software originated as part of a marketing campaign for free software. It is computer software that is available in source-code form, for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a licence that permits users to study, change and improve the software. It has been estimated that adoption of open-source software models has resulted in savings of about US$60 billion (Bt1.94 trillion) per year to consumers.
In its first year of operation, Boss has implemented open-source software solutions for many clients, most of them large companies and state-enterprises.
This year, it plans to expand its membership with at least 10 more local software companies and is working with partners to increase the number of Thai software workers with an expertise in the open-source area.
Boss's president Danupol Siamwalla said the group's mission was to gather local software houses who specialise in various areas of open-source software so that together they can provide wide-ranging software solutions for Thai companies.
This arrangement will create more confidence among potential customers in adopting open-source solutions and services for large software projects, Danupol said.
"In the past, we were all separate, and stood alone when doing open-source software business. Now, we will team up together to merge our different areas of expertise to provide the best solutions, even for large-sized customers," he said.
Boss's approach is to provide open-source software solutions under a cluster model. On each project, one company will be the group leader, and this leader will gather partners who are specialists in different areas, such as enterprise-resource planning (ERP), content-management systems (CMS), Open Office and infrastructure software like Linux, to work together.
Danupol said the model would bridge the gap between demand and supply in open-source software implementation. When a large organisation needs a large-scale open-source software solution, Boss can bid for the job, even though to do it, it will form a cluster consisting of small- and medium-sized software firms.
Apart from commercial operations, the group also plans to help the industry develop human resources in open-source software. This year, it plans to set up open-source software training courses for both the demand and supply sides of the business.
It plans to work with several organisations, including Software Park Thailand and The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec)'s Academy, to provide training courses for developers with the aim of increasing the number of open-source software providers.
"We need more local software houses who are expert in open-source software, due to the high potential demand for it in Thailand. An increase in local open-source software providers will also help to push the development of the entire software industry," Danupol said.
Boss is also planning to launch an open-source software training course for users, with the aim of increasing awareness among potential customers and to help them prepare to adopt open-source software and work with it successfully.
Danupol said it seemed that large enterprises were the leading group of customers who were interested in investing in open-source software because they sought to reduce the cost of software licences while maintaining their productivity and business efficiency.
"There are large organisations already among the group's customers, such as Thai Airways International, S&P Restaurants and the National Housing Authority. We have proved that we can provide large-scale open-source software for them," Danupol said.
Boss is also targeting small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) customers, but currently, most of these firms do not understand open-source software, Danupol said. They often have the misunderstanding that open-source software is totally free of charge, so they have no need to pay for open-source solutions. They also adopt open-source software without a strategic plan, so they have no blueprint of open-source software investment.
"It is our job to let them know that using open-source software is not totally free. There are costs, but these a lot less than the cost of software licences. The cost of using open-source software includes implementation, maintenance and training," he said.
Samphan Raruenrom, the managing director of Open Source Development Company - a member of Boss - said the reasons for adopting open-source software were different for large corporations and SMEs. Large corporations often needed open-source software to replace their licensed software and they usually had a strategic plan to migrate their entire system from a licensed-software base to open-source software. SMEs, on the other hand, usually adopted open-source software to replace their pirated software.
"Large corporations do not need to carry the huge cost of software licences anymore. They have the choice of replacing their entire desktop software with Open Office, which is now more functional than Microsoft Office. But they pay only 10 per cent of the cost of the commercial licence. That's why, currently, large organisations with more than 1,000 PCs are turning to Open Office," Samphan said.