Two open source groups have launched a programme designed to evaluate the technical and commercial lock-in associated with IT deployments.
Certified Open aims to promote fairer competition in the provision of software, hardware and services.
The initiative will alert companies to the degree to which their choice of hardware and software locks them into certain vendors, thereby making it costly to move to other products or services.
OpenForum Europe said that up to 90 per cent of public sector organisations do not have the freedom to choose their IT platforms based on functionality and price, and that the same is often true for the private sector.
The organisation believes that much of this lock-in is inadvertent and results from hidden factors associated with single, proprietary suppliers.
"You can talk about source and you can define it, and you can talk about open standards and you can define it. But the question remains how to know whether you are open or not," said Graham Taylor, chief executive at OpenForum Europe.
"Certified Open asks 20 questions using self-assessment, but it looks at it
from the viewpoint of the client, the software, the hardware and, very
importantly, the data.
"So in these 20 questions there is nowhere to hide. All the answers are published on the website, so everyone is able to see the answers and not just the scoring."
The 20 questions are designed to test end-user, technical and commercial aspects of openness. Certified Open then awards Gold, Silver or Bronze certificates to successful applications, and the accreditations are listed in the online database.
The answers are published alongside the overall certification result, and there is a detailed appeals process to resolve irregularities and disputes.
Taylor explained that Certified Open was developed as part of an official UK local government project and was later expanded under a European Commission eTen project.
No charges are incurred during an initial three-month trial period, at the end of which user organisations can continue to deploy Certified Open free of charge.
Suppliers will have the option of an individual product certificate for €400 or unlimited certificates for €4,000 a year. Non-commercial projects released under a recognised free software licence will have the registration fees waived.
Certified Open will be progressively deployed worldwide following a general release in Spring 2008.
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