The open source movement is closing ranks.
Today more than 70 companies, organizations and individuals -- including Raleigh-based Red Hat and centers within N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill -- announced they are working together to promote the federal government's adoption of open-source technology.
The new group, Open Source for America, grew out of discussions that took place earlier this year between executives of Red Hat and Sun Microsystems, said Tom Rabon, Red Hat's executive vice president of corporate affairs.
The group's first order of business, Rabon said, is to "create a buzz about open source in Washington."
Red Hat is the largest distributor of the popular Linux open-source software. Open source software is software whose source code is made available so that it can be modified by anyone.
"The Obama administration has articulated its interest in developing an open, transparent and participatory government from its very first days in office," Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst wrote today on his blog. "The formation of Open Source for America is a step in the right direction to advocate and promote the benefits of open source and help achieve a truly effective and efficient government."
Open-source software is less expensive and more secure and reliable, Rabon said. The transparency that comes with giving everyone access to the code means that the code is intensely scrutinized and bugs are detected and fixed much faster.
"It's very rare that you hear about any mass viruses or bug problems with open source software," he said.
Currently the federal government is making limited use of open source software, which means that the opportunity is huge.
"The largest consumer of IT products in the world is the U.S. federal government," Rabon said.
In addition to Red Hat and Sun, ibiblio, the digital library maintained by UNC-Chapel Hill, and N.C.State's Center for Open Software Engineering are among the organizations that have joined the coalition. So have Google, Oracle and Novell.