Last month, Partnet’s CEO, Dr. Don Brown, gave a briefing at the Defense Logistics Conference on the advantages of open source technology for the government. I was in attendance and found myself surprised at how unfamiliar the audience was with open source technology in general and its advantages. They were not aware that some of the most widely used IT platforms, like Amazon, Google, and Facebook are based on open source software (OSS).

The DOD CIO has identified the potential of OSS and released a memo in 2009 supporting its use in DOD applications. A quote from the DOD CIO’s Open Technology Development (OTD): Lessons Learned & Best Practices for Military Software document (2011/05/16) reads, “Imagine if only the manufacturer of a rifle were allowed to clean, fix, modify or upgrade that rifle.”

Unfortunately, this is the position in which the government often finds itself with proprietary, off-the-shelf software applications. Increasingly, licenses are becoming value driven; companies grant fewer licenses per-CPU, in favor of per-seat, per-named-user, and even per-page-view licenses. The result of this is the addition of a variable cost component to operations and restrictions on the value the government can deliver. The logical extrapolation of these events is that government computing will soon either be supplied by a 3rd party cloud player with low variable costs, or that the government itself will be the cloud provider. The latter is only possible if the government provides the service at a lower cost than the 3rd party player.

The key to lowering the cost of ownership of government IT systems: open source software. With thousands of open source applications available that run the gamut from 3D graphics and simulations to complete operating systems, many sections of government have recognized an open source solution for their needs and have already begun to embrace open source technology. Many more, however, have yet to recognize the potential cost savings to the government associated with adopting OSS.

In these days of tight budgets, the government has to look to all possible arenas to achieve cost savings. Using more open source software in government IT systems is a great way to start.

My next blog in the Open Source Advantage series,  Why Open Source Software is Good for the Government: Cost Savings, will explore this idea further and describe the areas in which the government could see some of those cost savings.



This is the first in my four-part series: The Open Source Advantage.