Mark SayManaging EditorThursday 22 October 2015

CCS strikes deal for open source office suite

Agreement with Collabora provides fresh momentum to use of open source in public sector

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has given a push to the use of open source systems in the public sector with a deal to make an office suite from Cambridge firm Collabora available at discounted prices.

coding_open_source_from_GOV.UKCollabora GovOffice is based on LibreOffice, developed by The Document Foundation as one of the major open source alternatives to Microsoft Office.

It is the first pan-government agreement to provide common terms and conditions and pricing guidance for open source software.

The move adds some muscle to the government policy, which has had a low profile of late, of encouraging the procurement of open source solutions in an effort to support interoperability between systems and provide savings to public authorities.

Sam Tuke, marketing manager for Collabora, told UKAuthority that the deal is similar to those previously arranged by the CCS with proprietary software suppliers such as Microsoft and Oracle.

It also involves making the company’s Collabora CloudSuite, described as “forthcoming”, available at a discounted rate for the public sector.

Non-profit making organisations working on behalf of government, either directly or via outsourcing, will also be able to take advantage of the arrangement.

Microsoft competition

Tuke said the CloudSuite product is aimed at competing with Microsoft Office 365 in the public sector market.

Under the deal Collabora will offer five-year licensing for support of GovOffice, migration tools to support admin managers in mass installations, and support for the latest version of Open Document Format (ODF), the international software standard that the Cabinet Office recommends for use by government bodies.

The source code of the suite will be open for development by customers, and the company expects that improvements will feed into its future development.

CCS emphasised that, while GovOffice can complement or replace existing applications, it is compatible with Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

Increasing the use of open source has been one of the central pillars of government IT strategy since the late days of the Labour administration. It was pushed up the agenda when the coalition government took over, and in 2011 the Cabinet Office published an open source procurement toolkit, but despite sporadic announcements such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory opening up its Baleen software its profile has slipped in recent years.

Collabora has been active in the development of open source solutions – Tuke said it is the second largest code contributor to LibreOffice – and already has a low key presence in the UK public sector through deal with systems integrators.

“The difference is that we will now work directly with government through this deal,” Tuke said.

It is also on the G-Cloud procurement framework for ODF-related services and has public authority customers in countries including Italy and Germany.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0