The DoD memo wisely lays out the idea that open source software should be considered not alongside traditional, commercial offerings, but basically as traditional, commercial software offerings, so that the evaluation process is truly fair. Open source doesn’t fit in all circumstances, but it certainly does afford potential cost savings, flexibility and freedom in some situations, as noted in the memo.
I would agree with Simon Phipps, who called the memo an end to FUDsters seeking to limit open source at the DoD and described it as ‘a landmark moment for the FOSS movement.’ Here’s why. I believe this is a model for government and enterprise end users to use for determining where open source software best fits into their organizations.
That’s not to say the memo or the model should favor or offers special treatment or placement for open source, which I believe is a good thing. We’ve seen elsewhere how other interests and politics can play into lobbying either for or against open source software in government, impeding a fair debate. That seems all the more reason to be encouraged by a sensible approach we see from the U.S. DoD.
I believe the memo and reaction to it represent something larger in adoption of open source software, not only by the U.S. DoD and among other governments around the globe, but also including enterprises and even SMB users: the official embrace of open source. Anyone who knows open source software and Linux should be aware that governments, military, aerospace and many other industries already rely heavily on open source software. The reason this might come as a surprise to some is that open source software, in typical fashion, has krept into these organizations, corporations and yes, communities, whether it’s embedded engineers, aerospace scientists, pharmaceutical researchers and the list goes on. Many of these various field experts and their IT partners and teams have relied heavily on Linux and open source for their projects and tests. Thanks to free availability, these smart people did not have to ask anyone whether they could use, procure or spend money on this open source software — they just did it.
And now as the U.S. DoD sets out its guidelines for considering and adopting open source software — making open source software official, approved and part of the institutional guidelines. This also comes as the White House web site shows its own affection for open source.
As we’ve found in our research and conversations, open source has two ways of getting into the market and users’ hands: unofficially through downloading, using and accelling with freely available software under the radar; and following company or organizational guidelines that govern consideration and use of open source software. The latter is bound to drive broader and greater adoption of open source software and it appears the official route has officially arrived.