Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Open Source: the Sequel

“Over 80% of commercial software and hardware vendors will touch open source in some form by 2007.” That was a prediction from Bob Zurek, who chaired the Mass. Software panel I finally got around to recapping a few days ago.

Bob was a Powersoft fellow years ago when I did PR for the company, and he’s just as sharp and insightful as he was then. Bob, now VP, Advanced Technologies and Product Management at Ascential, taps out his own blog, which will be of particular interest if you’re following integration-related topics like orchestration, workflow, SOA and Web services.

The surprisingly funny, dazzling and irreverent closing speaker was Peter Quinn, CIO of the Commonwealth of Mass. The State spends around $500 million per year on IT. He noted that in government, you build it and then you just forget about it, resulting in “the most heterogeneous and bizarre environment you’ve ever seen.”

The State IT group got itself in some serious hot water with the software industry a couple of years ago when it issued a memo discussing a new “Open Policy,” which was to include an in-depth evaluation of open source alternatives. (Predictably, the memo leaked within a couple of hours and Quinn was besieged by phone calls.) CEOs of major Mass. software companies, whose bread and butter is commercial software, were not amused. This led to a public review process organized by the Mass. Software Council. As a result, the State plans were vetted by some 30 area software CEOs and found to be forward thinking and sound. When you read the proposal’s fine print, the team was really proposing a blend of open source and proprietary software.

Quinn continues to push his agenda, noting that the State’s approach has helped force large systems integrators to consider open source alternatives. He is also in discussion with other state CIOs to pioneer alternatives so if an S.I. builds a system for one agency in say, Kansas, another state could license it at some greatly reduced fee. There’s been a remarkable lack of sharing state to state up until now.

In closing Quinn noted that TCO with open source software is a real issue for his team. “Just because you get it for nothing doesn’t mean it’s gonna run for nothing.”

Wise words from a very impressive guy.

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