Obama administration seeks advice on benefits of open source

Not from The 451 Group, unfortunately, but from Sun’s chairman and co-founder Scott McNealy, who told the BBC he has been asked by the new administration to prepare a paper on how the use of open source software within government can improve both security and the cost-effective use of technology.

According to McNealy:

    “The government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability – all the benefits that come with open software.”

The report also quotes McNealy as saying “It’s intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software… Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money.”

That quote is bound to bring out the naysayers – and rightfully so since it contradicts McNealy’s “free like a puppy” perspective (Dennis Byron has risen to the bait) – but the idea that government institutions could reduce costs by collaborating and building on reference implementations is a more convincing argument.

We have previously noted that the European Commission is slowly leaning further towards open source based on the view that using open source development methods will enable member countries can improve development and collaboration processes, avoid duplication of effort and focus innovation further up the value chain.

Meanwhile US federal government agencies are already rapidly adopting and promoting open source.

Recently economist Dean Baker, who has been credited with being the first economist to predict the crisis in the US housing market and its effects on global economic markets, recently called for funding for the development of open source software as part of a stimulus package.

He wrote:

    “The government can spend $2 billion a year to develop open source software. This money can be used to further develop and simplify open source operating systems such as Linux, as well other forms of free software. The payoffs from this spending would be enormous.”

The BBC also quotes Michael Tiemann, who estimates that the cost of proprietary standards to the use government is “$400 billion (£290bn) and upwards”.

President Obama has already been positioned as a friend of open source, starting with his support for universally accessible formats, the technology used to run his campaign, and his use of collaboration techniques, not to mention some of his early policy group appointments and his promotion of “open source democracy”.

There is a world of difference between those initiatives and actually promoting the use of open source at a governmental level. It remains to be seen whether Obama’s choice of US CTO will act upon the recommendations of Scott McNealy.

Glyn Moody notes that McNealy “was always very ambivalent about open source during his time as boss of Sun”, which is true, but he has demonstrated that he understands the benefits of open source and open sharing and as chairman of Sun Federal he has the all-important ear of government contacts.

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23 comments ↓

#1 Williams Mendez on 01.21.09 at 1:04 pm

This is a great news, i was talking about free software and my University in Dominican Republic, think that to use Free Software may be a new begining for the world…

#2 Perry on 01.21.09 at 1:10 pm

The biggest savings would be in the ability to continue using the computers currently in use, since Linux requires so fewer resources than any version of Windows.

#3 paul on 01.21.09 at 3:53 pm

Well since I work primarily with government agencies, I would say, “YES”, they could use the same desktops and install Linux here and save, but since most of their servers are Big Blue AIX boxes, Linux or Open Solaris buys them little at that level. There is not a greal deal of difference between Linux and AIX when we are speaking RISC AIX boxes. They do have some Solaris SPARCS and of course Windows servers for basically smaller assigned tasks. The Windows servers could definitely be switched.

Of course by switching to Open Solaris or Linux, then when it comes time to retire (most of the time 3 year leases), the AIX boxes, they certainly could replace with a x64 box running Linux or Open Solaris.

#4 Obama, ¿más próximo al open source? | Linux Zone on 01.21.09 at 2:46 pm

[…] en the451group « ¿Se acabó Compiz […]

#5 El Duplicador » Obama, ¿más próximo al open source? on 01.21.09 at 2:57 pm

[…] Visto en the451group […]

#6 Steve Howard on 01.21.09 at 3:28 pm

Why on earth did they choose Scott McNealy?! This guy has been wrong/changed his mind so many times I can’t even count. He is always so bent on his agenda of the day, which invariably changes in six months…

#7 paul on 01.21.09 at 3:54 pm

Did not the article explain that he is chairman of Sun Federal?

McNealy has had to learn at the feet of the current CEO of Sum, who is extremely PRO OPEN SOURCE!!

#8 EvilPixieMan on 01.21.09 at 5:28 pm

As much as I am a huge fan of GNU/Linux, use nothing but F(L)OSS software outside of my work environment (& quite a bit of it at work too), and would love to see it used in gov’t, I can’t help feeling that Mandating OSS is the wrong way to go. I think it’ll only stoke the fires of opposition, stirring all proprietary, tax-paying, developer-employing software companies to complain.

Better to mandate open standards, on the basis that it is a logical conclusion of some of the fundamantal principles under which government are supposed to operate (by the people, for the people, without prejudice, open access etc.).

Once all vendors are working to a set of standards and the effects of proprietary lock-in evaporate, I think Open Source will naturally start to win the day in any areas where it is mature and feature-complete enough to do the job. Which by my experience would be in most places. Heck, even in areas where the APPS aren’t there for niche workloads, there may even be pressure on the proprietary vendors to offer a GNU/Linux/BSD/(OpenSolaris?) version…

#9 Bruce on 01.21.09 at 8:29 pm

EvilPixieMan,
Excellent comment. I totally agree.

#10 pwl on 01.23.09 at 12:50 am

“open standards” like OOXML ? 😛 embrace..extend..crush..kill..destroy

#11 EvilPixieMan on 01.23.09 at 8:53 pm

hehe. you’d hope they’d take the time to look at the standard and actually pick one that greater than 0 products actually implementing it 🙂

#12 Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for January 21 » Silicon Florist on 01.22.09 at 3:04 am

[…] 451 CAOS Theory » Obama administration seeks advice on benefits of open source Via The 451 Group “President Obama has already been positioned as a friend of open source, starting with his support for universally accessible formats, the technology used to run his campaign, and his use of collaboration techniques, not to mention some of his early policy group appointments and his promotion of ‘open source democracy.’” […]

#13 KW on 01.22.09 at 1:30 pm

>>President Obama has already been positioned as a friend of open source…

We’ll see. The Silverlight choice gives me pause.

#14 Mint-Italia » Blog Archive » Obama e l’Open Source, parte 2… on 01.23.09 at 9:59 am

[…] sul tema si possono ad esempio trovare nel blog di Ostatic, in quello del 451 Group e nell’articolo di Matt Asay in Cnet […]

#15 Open Source mobile edition on 01.23.09 at 10:26 am

[…] order to sell the razors. This is actually what has kept Sun afloat. When McNealy says he’s doing a paper advocating open source, understand that it is actually a vendor white paper being sent to a big customer, nothing more. […]

#16 Open Government = Open Source | BUZZ NEWSROOM on 01.23.09 at 3:19 pm

[…] other positions on open-source suggestions, see The 451 Group’s Matt Aslett’s blog and […]

#17 Jeff Lewis on 01.23.09 at 6:38 pm

Soooo.. let me get this right – you don’t trust the government to run your healthcare system – but you DO trust them to fund the writing of an operating system by a loose collection of mostly unaccountable software developers.

Yes.. that makes a lot of sense.

Go for it.

#18 Matthew Aslett on 01.26.09 at 4:42 am

I’m not sure who that comment was aimed at but I do know that your impression of who is responsible for writing open source software is largely out of date.

#19 John McLaughlin on 01.25.09 at 11:07 am

Scott and Sun Microsystems have promoted Open Systems for more than 20 years. The key idea of Open Systems is that there is an open specification and multiple implementations. UNIX is an open system, Microsoft Windows is not.

#20 Open Source Gets into the Legal Field « Oregon Business Law Blog on 01.25.09 at 9:53 pm

[…] about the benefits of open source within the federal government (451 CAOS Theory writes about that here.) According to that article, it appears that some are even pushing for open source funding as part […]

#21 451 CAOS Theory » Open source is in IT, but what about ET? on 01.28.09 at 7:38 pm

[…] as solutions to many of today’s problems. The new U.S. administration under Obama, which we reported is seeking counsel on use of open source software, continues to keep energy high on its agenda as […]

#22 just open » Ο Obama τουλάχιστο το ψάχνει on 01.29.09 at 10:01 am

[…] http://blogs.the451group.com/opensource/2009/01/21/obama-administration-seeks-advice-on-benefits-of-… This entry was written by Michael, posted on January 29, 2009 at 8:01 am, filed under ΕΛ/ΛΑΚ. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. […]

#23 451 CAOS Theory » Open source security debated on 02.10.09 at 11:07 pm

[…] the U.S. and new administration of President Obama contemplate open source software, I expect a similar debate will be occurring over the security of open source. […]