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UK Goverment IT Chief Backs Open Source Suppliers

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the open-up dept.

Government 72

Blacklaw writes "The UK government's deputy Chief Information Officer has outlined plans to hand public sector IT contracts over to small businesses and suppliers of open-source and cloud-based solutions in an attempt to balance the books. Speaking at the 360IT conference in London on Wednesday, Bill McCluggage also promised greater transparency over IT procurement, with tenders and contracts published online. Outlining a commitment to 'simplify, standardize and automate', McCluggage said the government would make it easier for open-source suppliers to compete for contracts, making the public sector less reliant on individual suppliers, or locked into proprietary systems."

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Lets hope this brings an end ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33671982)

Lets hope this brings an end to central government giving out contracts to HP/EDS which over run and never work.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (2, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672114)

Yeah, I'll believe that when it happens. I'm sure there's a nice money-flow from the public purse to HP and then into the politician's campaign funds.

Still this seems to be a positive move, unusual for politics.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673298)

Campaign funds in the UK are capped, and none of the candidates from the major parties has any trouble reaching this cap - they don't need contributions from HP, and all other gifts must be declared on the Register of Members' Interests. We don't have the same system of institutionalised bribery as the USA. The closest thing that we get is Ministers being offered directorships once they leave government in exchange for services rendered while there, but this only really works for bribing the people at the top. The other 400 or so MPs don't tend to get offered this kind of thing.

The UK has a lot of small IT businesses, while HP has just reduced its UK workforce by around 2,000 and generally uses non-UK workers for these contracts. Employing British people to work on government projects makes financial sense for the government (they will be paying taxes and buying things in the UK), and is likely to be a vote winner.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (0, Flamebait)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674300)

So why will the UK open source project succeed when the Switzerland(?) project failed? They tried to go open-source but now declared it didn't work out, and are going back to Windows 7 immediately
.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674434)

Will it be exactly the same project - in terms of scope, deliverables, team, tools, methodology...?

Unless it is I don't see why the premise leads to the conclusion at all.

Applying your logic, since Leonardo da Vinci failed at heavier than air flight it's clear that Wright brothers faked it.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33674654)

The Swiss project was pretty much doomed to fail. The IT director apparently didn't do a very good job on the human factors, scheduling was a disaster, and the media was actively working against it, though I'll try and resist the temptation to be cynical about whether anyone's pockets were being lined to encourage that.

Britain, on the other hand, has a few success stories in open-source already - in fact, enough successes and failures that people pretty well know what to expect.

Besides, after the London Stock Exchange debacle, they probably aren't inclined to consider a proprietary Microsoft solution as a silver bullet, and even more so when that many vendors are involved.

Getting Joe-Six-Pack to love open source (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33677010)

Several times I've heard "This PC came with Linux installed, format it and install Windows." I feel sad, but I really have a hard time making an argument for it. They want stuff that doesn't run on Linux, a familiar interface, the way they know how to do stuff, and that's it. Switching to another OS or application is hard, people only do it if there a strong reason. There have to be strong reasons to switch. Strong apps, that only run on the open source OS would attract people to it - but those get ported to all OS's.

Re:Getting Joe-Six-Pack to love open source (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#33683290)

Interoperabiliy is a big reason why people may not want Linux.

Many people need to run Outlook for work emails. None of the solutions on Linux that I am aware of support all of the features of Outlook in a way thats 100% compatible with it (and doesnt require the Exchange admin to enable things on the server). Outlook Web Access may be disabled by the admin (and it only works 100% on IE unless it changed last time I looked) leaving the only option being to run Outlook talking directly to the company Exchange server through the VPN.

I have heard statements from a family member who tried OpenOffice.Org (on Windows XP) and was unable to use it as the documents it created/loaded/saved/displayed did not come out the same as they do in Word and therefore Word is the only acceptable option. Many people who have to deal with Word documents are likely be in the same boat.

Other people may have other issues where they need to talk to software, servers and systems and the options for doing so just dont work on Linux as good as they do on Windows (or on Firefox as good as they do on IE)

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33676224)

QUERY: - Why are there a hundred articles about Firefox, but nada about Mozilla/seaMonkey?.

Maybe because someone allowed the proper standards, HTML, to take the backseat, and allowed the standards to get hijacked by the browsers, which should all render exactly the same. In fact the browser should not even be identifiable by the server.

Re:Lets hope this brings an end ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33673794)

Lets hope this brings an end to central government giving out contracts to HP/EDS which over run and never work.

You forgot to mention Accenture, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the other "Big Boys." These firms never finish a project on-time nor on-budget yet still get awarded new contracts like candy handed out at Hallowe'en by the village pedophile.

clouds in a bottle (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33672036)

hinting at a possible move towards cloud-based solutions to escape licensing restrictions

They should be careful not to let buzzwords govern their decision.

A lot of what passes as "the cloud" involves removing control from the user and moving that control to a centrally-managed proprietary virtual host.

If they happen to choose these sorts of "cloud" applications -- which are becoming increasingly common with the "SaaS" lock-em-in-and-rip-em-off crowd -- they're only going to multiply their licensing headaches.

Their advisors should make it a point to distinguish between open (commodity) computing platforms and centralized control platforms. Unfortunately, since this is a government body, their advisors are probably paid consultants from those same proprietary-platform companies.

Re:clouds in a bottle (2, Interesting)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672528)

Does it really matter where the server is and who technically owns it if you have no control over your data and how it's processed? I have a commercial ERP product I have to deal with that requires it run on a $30000+ AIX box, can only be backed up using their expensive partner company, requires keeping an expensive support contract, and completely sucks but there is no easy way to switch products because there is no way to export all the data and no way to fix the program because the vendor obviously doesn't even know their own product and we don't have the source. It doesn't matter if it's on my server or in the cloud. The only real issue is that the company went with a non-opensource solution (there was no OSS solution at the time) and it's now a nightmare and it will be an even bigger nightmare when we reach e point where we have to switch.

To be fair many OSS solutions would be nearly as big a hassle because they are so badly implemented. In theory you could get your data out and move to a different product but it'd be a serious chore. Bad source is almost as bad as no source.

yes it matters where the server is (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672838)

haven't you heard of latency ? It is what makes things real slow .

Re:yes it matters where the server is (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33719340)

Which is why you design things with latency taken into account. Pretty obvious. For most things it isn't a significant factor as usually it's a slight factor compared with processing time.

Re:clouds in a bottle (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673376)

Openbravo might be worth a look, you might even find some support to help to switch.

Re:clouds in a bottle (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33719328)

I've pinged the commercial support for several of these open options and none of them have ever even bothered to respond. Pretty funny. It'd take a lot to switch though - user training could be horribly expensive and time consuming which is difficult with business so tight right now.

Re:clouds in a bottle (1)

blackest_k (761565) | about 4 years ago | (#33754770)

it might not be as hard as you think largely its a client frontend and a database holding all the data.
If you can connect to your database using one of many tools dbvisualizer is one i use dbschema might be another
Chances are the schema's would be fairly similar.

I'm finding it a great learning experience getting into the details but one things for sure if you get the data in you can extract it too.

 

Re:clouds in a bottle (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674102)

"Does it really matter where the server is and who technically owns it if you have no control over your data and how it's processed?"

No, it doesn't. That's exactly why the parent post said "They should be careful not to let buzzwords govern their decision". If your are going for the change, try that it will be for the better insted of moving in order to stay at the same place.

Re:clouds in a bottle (3, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673308)

That depends on the cloud. For government IT, it might make sense to have a few large government-run datacentres that individual departments could buy time on, rather than having each project build its own separate infrastructure. The data and software would still be in the cloud, but the cloud would be in a bottle.

For the first time! (4, Informative)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672092)

My interest is somewhat moderated by a distinct feeling of deja'vu - almost as if the last administration made similar claims that apparantly went nowhere? Lets see [timesonline.co.uk] ....

The UK Government has announced that it will consider open-source software on an equal footing with proprietary commercial software when awarding multi-million-pound IT contracts.

In a paper issued on Tuesday, Tom Watson, the Minister for Digital Engagement, said: “Open Source has been one of the most significant cultural developments in IT and beyond over the last two decades: it has shown that individuals, working together over the Internet, can create products that rival and sometimes beat those of giant corporations.”

And the date on that? February 25, 2009.

Re:For the first time! (3, Interesting)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672354)

The UK Government has announced that it will consider open-source software on an equal footing with proprietary commercial software when awarding multi-million-pound IT contracts.

Why wouldn't you consider Open Source on equal footing with commercial software by default? It seems like a redundant statement.

They very well might have been considering Open Source as an option since that announcement - the question is whether Open Source has ever actually made the the grade and been accepted as a better solution.

Re:For the first time! (4, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673134)

Yes. The news here is (1) the reduction in multi-million-pound contracts in favour of more, smaller contracts. This means that the bidders themselves can be smaller (UK government tenders have, in the past, often had existing turnover requirements that mean most IT consultancies can't bid on them, leaving the field open to just a few large specialist companies, with most contracts apparently going to Capita), and (2) an apparent _preference_ for open-source solutions, rather than just (as the last government did) a requirement to evaluate open-source solutions as well as closed-source ones.

Re:For the first time! (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673806)

Why wouldn't you consider Open Source on equal footing with commercial software by default?
That is easy you need to think like a government.

The one rule.
1. It is not what you do right that gets you promoted. It is what you do wrong that gets you punished or fired.

Let's say you spend millions on an infrastructure and training people to use an open source product that does something useful, but that project after a time is no longer maintained because the key developer(s) moved to new and better things. Sure you can hire staff to maintain the code. But to the guy who OKed the product in the first place showed that he made a bad decision as they need to put even more resources then before that was unplanned.

Sure the same thing can happen with any product from a big company. But if that happens from say from IBM or Microsoft you may need to pay more to switch or higher fees to keep the software working, but to the approver he can come out clean as he made a decision at the time based on industry standards and it was the evil companies fault for dropping the product. Also with a big company you can have a contract to insure that it will be supported for a agreed period of time.

It is not fair, it is not open sources fault. It is that government don't run on rational thinking but how to ease the minds of it's voters who has 1/2 of it's population with below average intelligence.

Re:For the first time! (1)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33675794)

Having recently worked on setting up a government procurement framework, I can offer this.

It is not uncommon to find that the procurement criteria or legal contracts you have to use explicitly assume that it is licenses to use the software which are being purchased. Since many open source licenses don't work that way, they end up getting excluded by default. This is not an evil plot to exclude open source software, it's just that this is the way software is generally purchased (or at least, it was in the past).

I had many meetings with various government bodies and lawyers to ensure that our framework did NOT make those assumptions. Once everything was properly been explained, I found people were very willing to make the necessary changes.

Re:For the first time! (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673344)

Different announcement. The open source bit is, basically, irrelevant. This is about the change in the bidding procedures to favour smaller contracts awarded to UK companies, rather than large contracts awarded to EDS (now owned by HP). Part of it is about the government effectively getting a 30% discount, because the people that they are paying will be paying that much back in taxes immediately.

The current bidding procedures favour companies with lots of experience winning previous bids, so EDS (which has a lot of experience failing to complete government contracts) wins most of them. As the text you quoted says, they were generally massive multi-million pound contracts. In future, these will be split into smaller chunks that small companies can handle, so they should get a lot more bids than when there are only 2-3 companies capable of completing the work.

The open source and cloud stuff is just there for buzzword compliance.

Re:For the first time! (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673400)

that was the last government... all talk, useless in delivery.

Unless it was suggested by their mates in big business, when legislation would be forced through PDQ.

Re:For the first time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33693074)

I seem to recall (perhaps incorrectly, but I'm not going to check now) that the Conservatives have made comments indicating a pro open source stance. This, from the last government, may well have been in reaction to those comments so they don't look bad without any intention to follow through with it.

Regardless, you can't judge the current government by the actions (or inactions) of the last governemnt.

100% buzzword compliance (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672126)

Well if I was a UK citizen I'd be concerned about "cloud based solutions" but applaud the use of open source. The use of both in this particular context leads me to believe this is an excercise in buzzword compliance to mask poor strategy and decision making. These qualities in a government official? Who'd a thunk it?

Re:100% buzzword compliance (0)

gringer (252588) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672192)

a utility-maximising foray into language improvement optimisation techniques to obviate the degredation of A) core procedural goals and B)reconstruction of enlightened creative thought processes

FTFY

MOTHERFUCKING GNAA!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33672156)

Huge BLACK COCK in the HOUSE!!!

Re:MOTHERFUCKING GNAA!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33672274)

I have a pair of black cocks. Guarding my hutch.

Black Cocks? Grouse about it. (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673730)

Presumably you mean the male of this species [blackgrouse.info] . Lucky you: they are quite rare in the UK these days. Maybe they keep failing to breed because the Government database of Lekking times and places has been contracted out to EDS and been buried in some evil proprietory format.

Wonder how long he'll last (5, Insightful)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672280)

Usually courageous people like that get removed from office pretty quick. Also, his proprietary software opponents (vendors) will probably be very quick to pounce on any delays or missteps while systems transition to Open Source (while delays in proprietary software projects are quietly swept under the carpet due to 'commercial sensitivity'). I hope this guys pulls it off and levels the playing field - which should also save a lot of taxpayer pounds/dollars

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33672502)

Heh,
he won't last, there are too many 'players' with their fingers in the UK IT budget pie, getting very rich.

This past week I've had to deal with someone trying to debug a system specified, configured and installed by one of these wanker organisations.

The poor IT sap dealing with it locally doesn't understand what the hell is going wrong. Please don't get the wrong idea here, the guy knows what he's doing, it's just that the whole system is so, ummm, weirdly and, ahem, creatively configured (with a view as to lucrative future maintenance contracts, no doubt) there isn't a normally configured component anywhere (with the exception of some of the Cisco gear, and, even then, I have doubts about one of the devices).

Not too an uncommon thing, lots of spending on superfluous gear, in this case, there are more devices being deployed to manage 300 desktop machines at most, than I saw at a previous job where there were about 1400 desktop machines. I'm excluding the basic networking gear (backbone switches etc) from this.

someone shifts a whole pile of old shit at inflated new prices, makes money, taxpayer gets shafted (again).

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672530)

Flash back to a Yes Minister episode in a club.
A Permanent Secretary/Cabinet Secretary meets with a nice young man from the USA.
Thoughts about how good MS has been for the UK, how much money the UK has saved by using MS products are pondered.
New sums are drawn on a napkin.
The secretary shakes his head.
Later calls are made to buy the rotten borough of Redmond-on-the-Wold.

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (5, Insightful)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673528)

"Ah, but Minister, it works like this... Open source products cost zero to procure. Admittedly there are the associated installation and support costs, but that holds true for commercial products, so let's take the installation and support costs out of the equation. This leaves the cost of acquisition, which, as I said, for Open Source products is zero. Now, consider a commercial software alternative that would cost, say £15 million to acquire, yet we negotiate the price down to £10 million, so we can rightly say that we have saved the taxpayer £5 million - an not inconsiderable sum - but look at the Open Source alternative; it costs zero to acquire so there is zero that can be saved by negotiation - nothing - so what is better for the taxpayer: something on which we can save zero, or something for which we can negotiate a £5m discount? Basic maths and economics, Minister. "

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33673598)

Damn, I wish I had some mod points

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (2)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673628)

The proper calculation has to include the long-term benefits of the government owning their own source code. For example, there will be no forced upgrades. There will be less risk of orphaned products suddenly creating a situation where government data is inaccessible and useless. A national infrastructure of trained programmers to maintain this stuff is now possible, as there is source. There will be higher costs in programmers, that also has to be added.

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33674148)

"The proper calculation has to include..."

Whooooosh!!!

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674386)

You need to think like a Permanent Secretary. "Yes Minister, it is true that there will be no forced upgrades and less orphaned products risk. And the national infrastructure of trained programmers is something we want to think about. That would be a courageous stand to take, Minister. May I suggest a possibly less courageous stand though. With companies footing the expense, we can squeeze them and announce our savings to the voters in your district. There is the possibility that all those programmers now on the public payroll will compete with private business and their tax dollars. Those tax dollars help lower the income taxes of your everyday voter. But you decide, Minister, a courageous stand or a sensible one that can be defended properly."

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33674794)

Thank you, Sir Humphrey.

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1)

reverendbeer (1496637) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672676)

Usually courageous people like that get removed from office pretty quick.

Unfortunately true. It's like Tommy Lee Jones says in Men in Black, "A person is smart. People are dumb..."

If only there were more persons and less people...

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673046)

David Cameron has been talking about moving to open source and open standards for a few years now. [theregister.co.uk] Although that may not be what actually happens in the end, this man is unlikely to be removed for merely stating a desire to do what Cameron has already pledged to do.

Re:Wonder how long he'll last (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673110)

while delays in proprietary software projects are quietly swept under the carpet due to 'commercial sensitivity'

Only by the vendor of that particular product/project - the media generally rip such things to pieces regardless of the vendor.

Disclosure (1)

ddrichardson (869910) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672698)

the government does follow this route, the real bonus would be better transparency. Procurement in general in the public sector is poor - those of us working in defence often seriously question the choices that are made, not to mention the massive overspends and delays.

That said, the average person in the UK is more interested in what celebrities are doing than how their government spends their taxes.

Real Problem with Government IT (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672722)

It's not about open source or "cloud-based solutions". The cost of closed source licenses to government IT costs is a drop in the ocean when you're paying £1000/day for consultants. The biggest problem (and I witnessed this 1st hand) is that the people running government IT seem to lack focus on what they want to have delivered, so projects run on and on.

Re:Real Problem with Government IT (2, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673084)

the people running government IT seem to lack focus on what they want to have delivered

This happens in every area of the IT sector. I have seen million dollar projects run by corporations trundle on and on for years before eventual cancellation. Projects tend to only get canned when the manager of that project leaves the company, which often occurs at the same time as the company coming under severe financial pressure. As long as the company as a whole is profitable, individual projects are often given a lot of freedom.

Re:Real Problem with Government IT (2, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673162)

The biggest problem (and I witnessed this 1st hand) is that the people running government IT seem to lack focus on what they want to have delivered, so projects run on and on.

Yes, but part of the problem here is what the other half of this is addressing: the fact that most government IT contracts go to one or two large companies (I'm primarily thinking Capita here), who don't really have to compete on quality because there's a minimum turnover requirement in the tender that eliminates almost all of the potential competition.

Re:Real Problem with Government IT (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673480)

hence this initiative - its not really about 'open source' at all, its more abotu splitting the huge IT contracts that usually go to one or two huge consultancies into many projects that can be won by small companies, that might happen to use open source.

I'm thinking the current IT disaster by EADS. Its about time the governmnet woke up and realised all these huge IT projects are practically failures (especially by cost criteria) and actualyl did something about it. So 10/10 so far... we'll see how it works out in the end.

Re:Real Problem with Government IT (1)

hcpxvi (773888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674372)

I'm thinking the current IT disaster by EADS
I think you might mean EDS [hp.com] rather than EADS [eads.com] .

Re:Real Problem with Government IT (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33680836)

nope, I am referring to FireControl, managed by EADS - the defence and security (plus other stuff) contractor.

Now called Cassidian - a sure sign of things going wrong, once these types of companies rename themselves.

UK "Competition" (1)

hachete (473378) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672736)

The UK govt has never been known for its open policies. Typically, it will hire a firm to build a system, and any incomers will have to buy in to that companies system. Which is nice if you're the gatekeeper. If this ever takes off, then it will be a great step forward for UK software. If the govt publishes the specification, and products are measured against that, then competition is more likely to succeed. We might even get a real software industry.

Re:UK "Competition" (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672956)

Think of how the GCHQ would have to work if the UK had a software industry beyond IBM, Honeywell and Microsoft.
With all the MS products in use and never ending projects, all the mirror and data dumps are just so easy.

Re:UK "Competition" (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673112)

If the govt publishes the specification, and products are measured against that, then competition is more likely to succeed.

This is a great point. The government tenders that I have been involved in have been terribly biased towards an existing supplier. One tender evaluation actually had a grid of checkboxes that exactly matched the feature list of a major commercial project in the area. What I would like to see is a X-Prize bounty type arrangement, where the detailed specification for software is published, and the evaluation criteria, and whoever presents the best solution by some date gets the prize money. It would save billions, and would open up the market to competition from small companies, and even individual coders, who are atm locked out of government contracts by various means. If it worked for getting a reusable space vehicle into orbit and back for $10 million prize money, then why shouldn't it work for developing software? There are employment sites on the net where you can hire top Russian/Indian/etc. coders for a fraction of the hourly rate that EDS consultants charge. If the system could be changed to bring these guys into the game, government IT costs would drop like a stone.

Re:UK "Competition" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33673850)

There are employment sites on the net where you can hire top Russian/Indian/etc. coders for a fraction of the hourly rate that EDS consultants charge. If the system could be changed to bring these guys into the game, government IT costs would drop like a stone.

Better to hire your/their own citizens working in your/their own country who will spend their incomes in your/their country and pay taxes in your/their country. The race to the bottom w.r.t. compensation for information technology workers is a problem not a solution.

thanks lot! (-1, Offtopic)

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Wrong target (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672836)

Whether it's open source or closed source isn't the most important thing. Whether it's run locally or in the cloud doesn't make that much difference.

What really matters is whether the data is readily accessible in a known format. If you can get your data in some sane way that is independent of your current software, then you are in control. If you cannot, then you are not in control.

Of course, going OSS and going cloud-based each have their pros and cons as well, but IMHO they are secondary to controlling the data. For example, while OSS theoretically implies being able to access your data in a known format, I would still rather use a closed source solution with a cleaner known data format than an OSS solution where the code that manipulates the file format is difficult to understand and the format itself is more awkward.

Re:Wrong target (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33673028)

Controlling the data is exactly what the cloud will provide them with.
In the context of the UK civil service, which loses CDs with sensitive data by couriers at an ever increasing rate, moving to a cloud will at least spare them that embarrassment!

This is also the country which has a yearly occurance of a Ministry of Defence laptop being left unattended in a car-park.

Re:Wrong target (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673150)

So now they can lose a memory stick with their cloud password database on it (protected by the password "password").

Re:Wrong target (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33673668)

username: 'root'
password: ''

Re:Wrong target (1)

horza (87255) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673872)

I would agree that having the data accessible in a known format is the primary target. If the government standardises on ODT for instance, then a council can choose between MS Word and Open Office. Or the council can just standardise on Open Office but individual workers could install their own copy of MS Word if they feel more comfortable with it. Or Abiword (and a hundred other word-processors) can add full support for ODT and suddenly a new OS alternative becomes available as a government standard. Same with all other government data, a standard well-defined XML format can be published.

Controlling the data means defining the format, and the access and authentication mechanisms. There are plenty of IETF standards for the latter. Eg Webdav, Caldav. This way, the government could put out to tender a back-up solution, and it could be written completely independently of any knowledge of their internal systems outside of the published XML format and allowed access mechanisms.

Phillip.

Re:Wrong target (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 4 years ago | (#33674282)

"What really matters is whether the data is readily accessible in a known format."

The problem is that for anything more complex than a tin whistle the letter of the specification is bound to have ambiguities and/or holes (no to talk about the case where the specification board has a vested interest on such ambiguities/holes) so having an unencumbered reference implementation becomes a must. Obviously, an open source implementation makes quite a good fit for an "unencumbered reference implementation". TCP/IP, HTTP or SMTP are examples of protocols that due to the existance of a strong unencumbered reference implementation (BSD's TCP/IP, NSCA httpd, Sendmail) have effectively levelled the playing field.

"For example, while OSS theoretically implies being able to access your data in a known format, I would still rather use a closed source solution with a cleaner known data format than an OSS solution where the code that manipulates the file format is difficult to understand and the format itself is more awkward."

Sure in and ideal world that would be the case, but then as soon as the vendor decides time has come, he can modify its implementation so the real 'de facto' standard is the one from that vendor whith everybody else playing catch up. Examples: Adobe's PDF or Microsoft's CIFS.

End of Microsoft agreements.. (4, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 4 years ago | (#33672966)

This seems to come hot on the heels of the end of the Microsoft licensing deal with the NHS [channelregister.co.uk] .
One of the side effects of the "Age of Austerity" is that the Government really doesn't have the money to throw around anymore. Real savings are having to be made in the Public Sector.
A simple choice is: Do we really get sufficient added value from having all the pretty functionality from the Microsoft Office suite, or do we really just need the basics (i.e. from Open Office, which is being used in Bristol City Council to a large extent) to create documents which can be stored. They may not look quite as slick, but they do the job nicely at a fraction of the cost (including support).
As Open alternatives start to be used, companies are increasingly finding that the myth of "there are no readily available skillsets in them, unlike Microsoft applications" really is a myth, and that there are a good many highly skilled people available at prices largely in line with the Microsoft setup, but often with a broader skillset behind that. It just seems to be that this is filtering into the view of Government now..
I'll be watching this one with interest; when used correctly, Open Source can be a huge cost saver. It's not the panacea for all ills, but when used as the right tool for the right job, everything works far better.

Re:End of Microsoft agreements.. (1)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673610)

Not only that, but oft times with service contracts, a company is brought in to manage (arms-length stylee) the entire IT system in a local authority (Glasgow, as Scotlands largest, and the UK's fifth or sixth largest Council comes to mind at this point)
The upshot of this is that from the enormous fees they charge, THEY have to pay licence fees for microsoft. Hardware is written off as a capital investment by the Council, but from my understanding, software isn't, it's seen as a service provided and managed by the arms length.
If the arms-length jobby persuades the Council (which is usually fairly easy, given it's usually run by pals of the Councillors/Officers. Nice and corrupt, from when it was "formed" by the Council) to switch to Open-Source, they get to make a small reduction in the fee they charge, and a massive reduction in the amount they have to pay Microsoft, and then pocket the (sizeable) difference.
Expect to see a lot of local authorities running this trick...

Re:End of Microsoft agreements.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33674516)

I suspect Microsoft would let the NHS use Office for free rather than getting dumped in favour of OO.org.

All the NHS would have to do is make themselves look serious enough to make Microsoft believe they'd actually do it.

Re:End of Microsoft agreements.. (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 4 years ago | (#33686044)

Working in the NHS, and keeping my eyes on the agreement quite strongly, I can assure you that MS aren't working that way. Besides, that'd only open the floodgates for everyone to do that, and then they'd end up providing a product for free to their largest purchasers.

Note carefully: "open source" is an afterthought (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673180)

The primary focus is on awarding contracts to small businesses rather than a few behemoths. Whether they use open source or not does not really appear to be a consideration. And "open standards" will in practice just means "hide the actual data inside a pile of useless XML cruft and pass it around via SOAP".

By the way, most customers for this kind of software would rather eat their own heads than have to deal with multiple vendors for different parts of an integrated national system.

Familiar story (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#33673746)

Ho hum. It seems like every three months or so we receive reports that the [insert name of favorite country, state, city, municipality, department or government agency here] pledges to 1) award more contracts to small business and 2) give preference to open source products. The end result is almost invariably the same: Large contracts go to large companies, allegedly because small companies can't prove they can "pull it off", and the usual closed source suspects get all the significant contracts based on some small or insignificant feature of their products that's missing in the competing FOSS product. (Sometimes it's something as blatant as "share point compatibility required", but mostly it's more subtle than that. In a few rare cases the purchaser openly admits that financial incentives beyond the reach of small / open source companies were part of the decision equation.)

Pledges won't change this state of affairs. The only way to break the pattern is to mandate reasonably-sized, neck to neck proof of concept implementations with focus on delivered functionality as part of the bid process. In the few cases I've actually seen that happen small and open comes out on top.

UK Mindsets (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33674178)

Never discount the UK mindset of stubborn resistance to change.

There is a school, not a half mile from where I sit right now, who have 1 Windows box for the school IMS and every other machine is either Mac or Linux. All the desktops for the pupils to use are Linux and most staff use Linux laptops.
They have had this system in place for at least the last 4 or 5 years.

Are they held up as an example? No.
Do other schools look to them? No.
Did the previous Government cite them as a brilliant example of cost saving and the freeing up of data from proprietary control? No, in fact they continued to sign the UK education sector up to illegal (by their own rules) "contracts" with MS and ignored the whole issue.

Our new Government has an even greater reputation for bending over for big business.

The headline sounds nice, but when it comes to actually carrying it out - I'm not holding my breath.

pullease, not BT (2, Interesting)

niks42 (768188) | more than 4 years ago | (#33675832)

As long as they don't engage BT to deliver the g-Cloud. More than 40% of all of the funding for the NHS national program is sinking down that particular black hole, and wouldn't want to see any more KBEs being created on the back of providing overpriced services very slowly, and very, very poorly supported.

Totally off-topic here... (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 4 years ago | (#33678374)

...but did anyone else initially read the guy's name as 'McLuggage'?

If he had a warped sense of humour, wonder if he'd consider naming his kids Valise and Satchel? ;o)

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