OPEN source software, which holds a central place with computer programming enthusiasts who oppose proprietary control over software code, has quietly been winning recognition in Australia's enterprise sector.
Surveys of Australian open source development companies indicate that the software, which is developed co-operatively under non-proprietary licensing schemes, supports an industry worth $500 million and is becoming better understood.
Marc Englaro, general manager of open source software company Fonality, said companies had developed a good grasp of the open source model.
"Three years ago there would have been expectations that open source meant free, whereas now open source means more cost-effective but not necessarily free," he said.
Technology managers no longer were so anxious about using open source software in preference to proprietary systems, he said.
"The fundamentals of whether you're an established organisation with a track record apply whether you're open-source or not, but the fact that you use open source doesn't on its own carry a negative connotation," Mr Englaro said.
Earlier this year, open-source software consultancy Waugh Partners surveyed 129 companies ranging from multinationals to small enterprises and found that the group generated about $500 million from open source activity.
More than half that revenue was directly generated from working with open source software, Waugh Partners found.
It also found that open source software developers were likely to be more highly paid than their colleagues working with proprietary software.
Waugh Partners director Jeff Waugh said open source software was most strongly represented in financial institutions and government organisations, and companies that were naturally positioned close to advanced technology, including internet service providers.
"Finance companies have always been on the leading edge of technology.