IBM Australia and National ICT Australia (NICTA)have joined forces to give open source software a boost in the enterprise space.

The collaboration, a first for both organisations, will run for three years and will be undertaken by NICTA at its University of New South Wales site. The research will focus on increasing the performance of open source software to facilitate its movement into enterprise computing.

The collaboration was announced at the IBM centre for E-Business Innovation in Pyrmont near central Sydney. IBM Australia and New Zealand chief executive Phillip Bullock described the agreement as a recognition of the quality of researchers in Australia.

The CAS is the first created by IBM outside North America and, according to the company, is designed to improve the efficiency of the AU$40 million IBM Australia spends on research and development. The deal with NICTA, the organisation running Australia’s ICT Centre of Excellence, is the first of what NICTA hopes will be many industry collaborations.

“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 said.

The Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Senator Richard Alston, hopes the centre will help Australia achieve a “critical mass” in the development space, leading to increased expediture.

“There are goals to be kicked in Australia,” he said.

Speaking at the launch, the acting chief executive of NICTA, Professor Brian Anderson, praised open source but conceeded that “In the end it will be the marketplace” that decides its role.

That role is changing, according to a recent survey by analyst company IDC. The most common open source operating system, Linux, currently makes up less than two percent of desktop computer operating systems. However, the survey revealed that 47 percent of Australian organisations were either considering using open source software, or were already using it wholly, partly, or trialling it.

Of the 53 percent of companies who said they had no plans to use open source software, the dominant reason given (by 40 percent of respondents) was the lack of an in-house skill set in the area. Those who cited a lack of applications as the reason for not considering using open source software comprised 31 percent.