Victorian govt warms to open source development

Local consultant to release open source project management app

Victorian government departments are increasingly contracting local open source development services for custom applications written in Java to leverage community contributions and raise the standard of software.

Both the Department of Infrastructure and Department of Sustainability and Environment are clients of Melbourne-based software development services company Groupware Consulting, and are using its custom software built with open source components like the Spring development framework.

Groupware's managing director, Domenic Brasacchio, said the company has a focus on open source because of the benefits it brings.

"The Victorian government is getting the benefits of community contributions and the professional level of software," Brasacchio said. "Open source meets enterprise software standards - it's scalable, reliable, and portable."

Brasacchio said Sun's decision to open source Java was a confirmation of the direction software services is going.

"The uptake has been really good and we have seen a huge increase in growth in our open source software services offering and we are migrating clients to that for the benefits and access to enterprise technology," he said. "The market is seeing the benefit of custom solution as opposed to an off-the-shelf product."

While there may be a rule of thumb in the enterprise that 80 percent of a software project should comprise of off-the-shelf components and the remaining 20 percent is custom development, Brasacchio said that 20 percent can be almost triple the product's cost.

"So what was the benefit? Focus on the business requirements," he said. "Spring has led to rapid application development as a lot of the core components are already there. For example, there is simple Web services integration."

Brasacchio said both Spring and Hibernate are used heavily in commercial environments because they allow simulation of as much of application as required, like how many concurrent users will need to be supported.

Groupware is also contributing the open source ecosystem with the recent release of extensions to the Spring Java application framework.

The Spring Layout, Spring MVC and tag extensions are now open source projects hosted on Sourceforge.net.

"For many months, developers at Groupware have been working in and out of hours developing a tag library and framework extension for Spring to facilitate rapid application development of data-centric Web applications," according to the company. "Spring Layout has now reached a level of maturity where it can be released to the open source community."

The framework extended the Spring JSP Tag framework with integrated declarative client and server-side validation, and enables the use of a single Java server page for edit and read modes.

Pluggable security with page and form field level granularity and a rich multi-page wizard form framework are also features.

Groupware claims the framework's integration allows rich form-based user interfaces for data entry that were previously seen as not capable in Web environment.

The benefits are lower management requirements, reduced administration, and lower maintenance costs, according to the company.

Spring Layout is available online at http://springlayout.sourceforge.net/.

Groupware is also preparing to release its in-house issue tracking and project management software iTrack as an open source project.

"iTrack is in alpha release and should be finalized next quarter," Brasacchio said, adding it is similar to the open source Trac from Edgewall software.

"At the time we developed iTrack, Trac was in the same infancy but what helped us along was clients were already using it. Its main focus is to allow us to manage issues and collaborate centrally. Our aim wasn't to develop our own version of Trac."

A number of Victorian government departments are also using iTrack in production.

Developed to allow Groupware's clients to manage, track and log issues for projects, iTrack also assists with project planning, communication between customers and service providers, and managing application testing and the change request process.

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