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UK Government Breaks Open Source Promises

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the it-sounded-good-at-the-time dept.

Government 145

judgecorp writes "The UK government has promised to favour open source systems in its procurement (and made those promises repeatedly). However, freedom of information requests have shown it is doing nothing of the sort. It is giving contracts to the same large suppliers as before."

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Sad truth (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314878)

Sadly, this is not that surprising. We are talking about the Government of the United Kingdom, or Her Majesty's Government [wikipedia.org] as it is officially known. If you were a queen (who in the 21st century still won't enter the House of Commons and only talk with the House of Lords) then who would you rather listen to: him [youtube.com] or him [youtube.com] ? We in the open-source [opensource.org] movement have a problem with image. The sad truth is that the very people thanks to whom that movement was started don't really care about they appearance, the arguments that would get to the Upper Class. They think that just because they are Right - which they are, no doubt about that - everyone will automatically recognize that and make decision based on what would be the best for the humanity. Sadly we live in the world of politicians, lobbies, parties, Kings and Queens. We have to recognize that and work on our appearance if we ever want to go main stream.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314958)

Very good point..

MOD PARENT UP!

Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:Sad truth (2)

SilentStaid (1474575) | about 3 years ago | (#37315102)

I'm not sure why you were modded down, that seems silly. I think you make a valid point. There is still an overwhelming perception in the business world that to get anything done you have to use Microsoft products when that is simply not the case.

Re:Sad truth (3, Interesting)

cavreader (1903280) | about 3 years ago | (#37315526)

And just what facts are you using to support the claim "overwhelming perception in the business world that to get anything done you have to use Microsoft products"? Open Source alternatives are just another choice available to those who are responsible for maintaining and building their systems. Replacing current applications with open source alternatives can be a daunting task for both medium and large sized corporations. Things like re-training the existing in-house IT staff, re-training existing users, deciding exactly which combination of open source applications are capable of fulfilling existing functionality, converting existing application data, and a reluctance to risk violating licensing requirements which can be open to liberal interpretations and are constantly being challenged today in court. Even when Open Source licenses are upheld in court it still means legal expenses for both parties of the dispute. By now people know there are open source applications but choosing open source to support a "cause" or "movement" or to just to stick it to MS can be reckless.

Re:Sad truth (1)

tomtomtom (580791) | about 3 years ago | (#37316076)

I have to disagree there. The (very large) organisation I work for moved from Lotus Notes to Outlook recently which is arguably a much worse transition for users and involves significant backend work - probably not more than moving to something OSS would have done. Plenty of large organisations use OSS in the back-office extensively.

The real issue is that OSS is just not good enough in many instances to replace the proprietary stuff. In particular, Excel and Outlook are very far ahead of the OSS alternatives.

For other apps, it's much closer (and particularly where organisations have now moved to fully web-based solutions for e.g. expenses submission etc it should be easy if there are no lingering IE6 dependencies). But the issue with Word and Powerpoint is that format compatibility is not quite 100% so all your old documents won't print properly any more. The functionality is just as good but if you can't open something produced in Powerpoint and have it look *exactly* the same then that's enough to stop people bothering to put the effort in to port their custom macro packages for their own branding etc.

Re:Sad truth (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316862)

the issue with Word and Powerpoint is that format compatibility is not quite 100% so all your old documents

Too bad managers' minds are too small to see how tightly they bind proprietary shackles around their companies' data.

Too bad the technically inclined are too meek to speak up.

Too bad a lot of IT people are Philosophy and English majors.

The whole industry is full of pretenders and incompetents, and the tax payers foot the overpriced bill.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317072)

100% agree

I work in IT recruitment and if i could cut text from a Word cv paste into openoffice manipulate the data and save again in Word format to send to a client (many mandate submission in word format) and garantee it looked the same as it did on my screen I would do it tomorrow.

As I ca't we just have a couple of Ubuntu desktops, a CRM system running on an Ubuntu server and a Centos Mail/Web server with Windows xp workstations collecting mail via IMAP and using MS Office otherwise

Re:Sad truth (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about 3 years ago | (#37318024)

I am not arguing that only transitioning from a proprietary closed source platform to an open source platform is difficult. Transitioning any system from one platform to another presents difficulties and challenges across the board. I was just commenting on those that evangelize open source as the savior of IT without considering the entire picture of what is involved in attempting such a large change. A lot of developers have made the open source/propriety source argument into an "us versus them" conflict with an emphasis on praising any action as long as it harms MS or any other large software vendor. That type of argument will not automatically ensure success and can end up creating problems. As an example I built a Windows application for the banking industry but after a few years our sales people had encountered existing and potential customers who liked the system functionality but wanted to transition from a MS based architecture to an open source based architecture using the Linux/Apache/MySQL stack. I created a new version of the application using this application stack and we had around 8 existing customers wanting to deploy this version. With that immediate demand I thought the development costs to build another version was justified and well worth the effort because of this trend. However, after deploying the application we had 6 out of our 8 customers contact us asking us to transition them back to the MS stack because their system overall system conversion failed. They encountered several critical applications that when replaced with Open Source equivalents did not even come close to meeting the basic functionality requirements. They wasted large sums of money in the conversion process but in the end gained no return on their investment and efforts. It turned out that the non-IT management of these companies relied on the the development group which included a lot of gung ho developers who justified their recommendations not on the functionality but on the fact they could save money by eliminating the cost of MS software licensing. Their tunnel vision in this particular case created expectations that in the end were never fulfilled. The technology was not the problem. With enough time and money they probably could have achieved their goal but there are limits on a companies ability fund and sustain an effort that in the end only provides a replacement system of a all ready functioning system.

Re:Sad truth (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316086)

There are lots of companies around London that handle 'outsourcing' of Government IT infrastructure. I work for one of them.

Our business model is this:

1) We have had our foot in the door for years, so pretty much all new tenders for work come straight to us, rather than find the best company for the job.
2) We promise the government the world with an equally high price tag for it but have no intention of delivering
3) We use standard off the shelf, *supported* products, by big names, that we're vaguely familiar with and shoe horn them to do the approximate job that we're asked to do, any hardware is supplied by equivalent partners who also offer support
4) we use lazy complacent people who are just about capable to manage the applications and services but definitely know how to escalate to paid support
5) any project that can't be managed this way we stall and shaft

fortunately everyone in government that handles the outsourcing are more incapable than we are, else they'd realise and stop giving us repeat work

Re:Sad truth (1)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | about 3 years ago | (#37316948)

Crapita ? Is that you ?

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317842)

>Replacing current applications with open source alternatives can be a daunting task for both medium and large sized corporations. Things like re-training the existing in-house IT staff, re-training existing users

So, just like replacing old WIndows with new version or upgrading to Office 2041? You really think you won't need to retrain people even if the interface changes a tiny bit?

I do agree that OSS for some things just isn't good enough. But where it is enough, I suggest that instead of handing over your cash to the MS you should just do the retraining on OSS stuff. I'd say it saves the money in the long run if properly planned.

Re:Sad truth (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 3 years ago | (#37318182)

Things like re-training the existing in-house IT staff, re-training existing users, deciding exactly which combination of open source applications are capable of fulfilling existing functionality, converting existing application data,

While it would be wasteful to rip and replace existing systems just for the sake of moving them to open source, new systems are introduced all the time and old systems are retired/replaced. This is where open source should be deployed, and if training is going to be provided it will be needed regardless of what new/replacement systems are implemented.

As for deciding what software can fulfil given requirements, thats something thats not done enough anyway... A lot of departments simply trust what sales drones tell them, even when the software they're selling doesn't really fulfil the requirements.

and a reluctance to risk violating licensing requirements which can be open to liberal interpretations and are constantly being challenged today in court.

The most common open source licenses (GPL, BSD etc) place no restrictions whatsoever on use, and only come into effect if you wish to distribute the software. Considering that the government hardly ever distributes software this is pure FUD. By contrast, proprietary licenses are far more complex as they often place significant restrictions on use, and don't allow redistribution at all.

Re:Sad truth (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315226)

I'm fairly certain that Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II does not work in a software procurement department in Whitehall. Although times are hard, perhaps she moonlights? What does Philip do, drive a cab?

Re:Sad truth (3, Funny)

rtb61 (674572) | about 3 years ago | (#37316108)

When it comes to stuck in the mud unable to change, the monarchy in the UK is a prime example of it. Keep in mind monarchy was basically a system of government based upon torturing to death anyone who disagreed or even might possibly disagree. Basically a system of government based upon homicidal psychopaths and their loyal psychopathic minions. That's the heritage of monarchy and one can see it today in various autocratic states when power is handed down within a family and opponents are executed in the most horrific fashion imaginable ie. Libya, Syria, North Korea etc. etc.

Really honestly any sane person should be ashamed and embarrassed to be part of a royal (descendent of homicidal maniac) family but no they strut about like insane clowns with delusions of grandeur, now that is really embarrassingly backward, much like continuing the closed source proprietary software route. No control, forced upgrades, wasted dollars auditing proprietary code (paying for the privileged debugging), data purposely degraded by upgrade incompatibilities and an endless stream of marketing lies that you as the consumer pay for.

Re:Sad truth (5, Interesting)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 3 years ago | (#37317042)

Your ancestors were of course saintly people who never did anything wrong ...

The Monarchy now have very little power, have never put anyone to death in a very long time , almost nothing to do with government, cost us very little, and do a lot for tourism and stop us having a politician as President ...

Our politicians however even though elected have gone against our will, strut more then the monarchy even when retired, taken us to war several times, and killed many people both our own, and foreign ... not exactly a decent alternative

 

Re:Sad truth (1)

locofungus (179280) | about 3 years ago | (#37316292)

What does Philip do, drive a cab?

+1 genius. British humour at its best.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317290)

"One had that Pippa Middleton in the back the other day..."

Ha (2)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 3 years ago | (#37317718)

What does Philip do, drive a cab?

No; he's far too rude for that.

Re:Sad truth (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 years ago | (#37315418)

That's working under the assumption that people outside of the FOSS community see Stallman as a figurehead in any way. Linus is way more well known, and he's more presentable than Ballmer IMO. Besides, corruption is a much easier route. You could look and act like rms if had Bill Gates' bank account and still win those contracts.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316316)

A baboon scratching its arse is more presentable than Ballmer. Pretty much anything is.

Re:Sad truth (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 3 years ago | (#37315424)

Really? You are using the pomp and ceremony attached to Her Majesty's Government to support RMS? Thats got to be the funniest thing I have read in quite some time.

You're retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316110)

The Queen has no role in government decision-making, her role is purely ceremonial.

The fact that the Queen is not allowed in the House of Commons is because (ceremonially) the Commons won't have her: only commoners can enter. She does talk with the House of Commons when both Houses assemble (in the chamber of the House of Lords) for the State Opening of Parliament.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316246)

... who in the 21st century still won't enter the House of Commons ...

For the record, it's not because she wont. It's because she can't.

No British monarch is permitted to enter the House of Commons.

Re:Sad truth (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 3 years ago | (#37316766)

Yes, this. It's a symbolic thing. Every time a new Parliament goes into session the first time, the Sovereign's representative is ritually denied access to the House of Commons.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316622)

That first clip is edited to promote an agenda. Gates did not say to use vaccines to lower the population.

If YOU want people to take you seriously, use examples that are not inherently duplicitous.

Re:Sad truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317340)

to be clear, the queen wont enter the house of commens becous they wont let her, after charlse I cocked it up by trying to arrest people. since then, she only adresses people in the house of lords

"This tradition stems from the time of Charles I, who had a contentious relationship with Parliament and was eventually beheaded in 1649 at the conclusion of a civil war between the monarchy and Parliament. In 1642 Charles I stormed into the House of Commons in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest five of its members for treason. Since that time no British monarch has been permitted to enter the House of Commons, which is why the opening is conducted in the House of Lords."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_Opening_of_Parliament#Preparation

Re:Sad truth (1)

tqk (413719) | about 3 years ago | (#37317664)

They think that just because they are Right - which they are, no doubt about that - everyone will automatically recognize that and make decision based on what would be the best for the humanity. Sadly we live in the world of politicians, lobbies, parties, Kings and Queens. We have to recognize that and work on our appearance if we ever want to go main stream.

+5 Insightful for that?!?

You're deluded if you think any amount of spit-polishing will make you any more of Their Sort of People(tm) than you are now. If you weren't born to the right parents, went to the right schools, were nominated for membership in the right clubs/societies, etc., you stay where you are and are thankful for it. Damn, the Help can be cheeky!

Paul McCartney and Alex Ferguson can get OBEs or Knighthoods but I don't expect them to ever get invited into the real inner sanctums.

You need to read up on the caste system. Being right or better is irrelevant there.

Expecting any different? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37314902)

Calling for open source in government is calling for discounts (along with more kickbacks).

I mean, who else is gonna subsidize their already good salary? Surely not those open source hicks /sarcasm

Re:Expecting any different? (2)

delinear (991444) | about 3 years ago | (#37317080)

The real reason is even simpler than that - the people who ultimately make the buying decisions, middle management, don't want to risk their jobs. The choice is go out on a limb and choose an OSS solution or do what everyone around you has done for the last 20 years and buy MS. If you go OSS and something goes wrong, you will be the one facing the music, if you go MS and something goes wrong, their sales/support/PR people face the music. There's little incentive to be anything other than incredibly risk averse (this was especially the case before the banking crisis, when it was simple to get sign off for high budget IT projects, I'm not sure to what extent that's changed in the last couple of years).

BBC Article (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 years ago | (#37314948)

The linked-to article cites a BBC FOI request as the source, but doesn't link to the BBC's own article on the subject [bbc.co.uk] , as far as I can tell.

Summary deliberately misleading (2)

Narcogen (666692) | about 3 years ago | (#37315284)

The summary appears to be deliberately misleading, saying the government "promised to favour open source" whereas the BBC article you cite merely says that open source should be considered "on a level playing field".

That's not favouring. That's the opposite of favouring; it's a goal to stop favouring non-open source projects just because they're open source.

Re:Summary deliberately misleading (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 3 years ago | (#37316850)

That's not favouring. That's the opposite of favouring; it's a goal to stop favouring non-open source projects just because they're open source.

Just because something is open source, it is not res ipsa loquitur better. Unless we're buying software on the basis of its openness instead of evaluating wether or not it actually solves the problem at hand.

It's basic stuff (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37314964)

Well it's basic stuff and it happens in every country.

The politicians are running the places and they are running them to their own advantage. The only question on any one of their mind is this:

"Does this make ME more money?"

The flow chart is then very simple:

1. No? Forget about it.
2. Yes? Let's do it.

Re:It's basic stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315084)

problem is that only big companies offering commercial solutions will make offers that ask for ridiculously big enough sums of money to be beliviable.

you know, because everything needs 1000 guys 'coding'. so the contracts go to accenture & the like who hock oracle and ms, those also conviently add to the budget and big sums on outside sw make the part of the money that stays at the contractor seem less greedy.

Re:It's basic stuff (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37315172)

I guess it's really unbelievable that so much open/free source software is out there. From really free software, like OpenBSD, to restricted license but Free source software, such as GNU/Linux or Apache. I guess those things don't actually exist? PostgreSQL - figment of my imagination, nothing else. I dreamt it, it doesn't exist.

No, I see your point, but when we talk about say MS vs GNU/Linux installations that were discussed a bit earlier on /. yesterday. When Bill Gates comes over to Tunisia it stops being about the project, it becomes purely about how large the bribe will be (which is actually illegal in USA under FCPA)

Re:It's basic stuff (1)

multisync (218450) | about 3 years ago | (#37315444)

From really free software, like OpenBSD, to restricted license but Free source software, such as GNU/Linux or Apache.

Nice troll

Re:It's basic stuff (1)

holdme (2454486) | about 3 years ago | (#37315746)

GPL is a restrictive license and BSD is permissive, you are a troll, not GP.

Re:It's basic stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316488)

Free software is free software is free software. All free software licenses are permissive. roman_mir is definitely trolling and you are an idiot.

Re:It's basic stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316736)

Nope. Free software is not free software is not free software, otherwise there'd be no difference between licenses, but there is.

BSD allows you to do anything you want, absolutely anything except removing the copyright notice.

GPL prevents you from distributing modified derivatives without distributing your modifications as source code and now with v3 there are various other restrictions.

You can't compare apples to meat loaf and say it's food is food is food.

Sure, it's food, it's totally different, but it's food.

So you are trolling, not anybody else.

competitive pressures (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 years ago | (#37315104)

It can't be bad as all that. If it really were, people would just stop using that supplier and go with a competing service.

Monopolies are prohibited, right?

Re:competitive pressures (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37315248)

We are talking about government politicians, so what do you mean "people would just stop"? It's about kick backs, not about some silly notions of what's right or wrong in the market.

Besides, government love monopolies, they create, protect and nurture them and then bail them out when things go sour. It's because monopolies have extra cash to throw around, and who do you think gets that cash thrown onto?

Re:competitive pressures (1)

Narcogen (666692) | about 3 years ago | (#37315258)

Monopolies are prohibited, right?

Actually no, they're not. Abuse of the power that comes with having one is, but merely being one is not prohibited.

Re:competitive pressures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316966)

Please don't tell me you're that naive?!

Mr Politician has lots of "friends" on the boards of directors of a big suppliers. When a project comes up Mr Politician says one of his friends might like to tender. The "firend's" company makes money if it wins the contract and Mr Politician keeps his "friend" and may even get an invite to act as a paid "advisor" to the supply company's board during the contract. Mr Politician does this with lots of companies. When Mr Politician has had enough so-called public service, one of his "friends" invites him to join full time to the board of directors of a very big company and Mr Politician can kick back and do sweet F.A. for the rest of his life having got the supply company in the door and made some more powerful "firends" in industry, any one of whom he can call favours from and get jobs doing bugger all other than adding cachet!

Now this all makes sense when you realise that quite a large number of politicians and business leaders all happen to have been to the same schools ( Eton and Harrow ) and colleges ( Oxford and Cambridge ) when they were younger. Believe me the "old boy's networks" are still very much alive in the UK ( and other countries too I suspect ).

Re:competitive pressures (2)

s73v3r (963317) | about 3 years ago | (#37317748)

You'd be completely wrong. This is evident in both the public and private sectors. There's a reason they say, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM."

Basically, the perception is that, since these guys charge a lot, they must be good at what they do. Since they're good at what they do, there's no reason to go with a competing service.

Re:competitive pressures (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 years ago | (#37317962)

Awesome. Good insight.

Politicians... (2, Insightful)

overnight_failure (1032886) | about 3 years ago | (#37314984)

...saying one thing to the public and then proceeding to do something different? I'm shocked, SHOCKED I say!

Most of the parties are happy to go back on their own manifesto policies so this really shouldn't surprise anyone.

Re:Politicians... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315086)

There are two great international truths in this world that eternally bond all cultures.

1) The use of mind-altering substance (eg: booze).

2) Politicians lie.

Re:Politicians... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315166)

But they were elected to be MPs, they can't possibly lie.

Re:Politicians... (1)

delinear (991444) | about 3 years ago | (#37317186)

This is a huge issue and no doubt a big reason for the voter apathy (why turn out to vote when the person you voted for backs out of the policies you liked). There should be some kind of social contract attached to the hot button topics that means they aren't allowed to do a U-Turn in office without a referendum on the subject. Then the polititicians can decide what their important "This WILL definitely be implemented" topics are and flag them as such in their manifesto and we, as voters, would get to see if they were serious about those issues (if they're just throwaway issues they wouldn't be flagged and we could see it was just lip service) and have some way to enforce our will once we've given them power. Obviously this will never happen because governments are in the business of protecting themselves, not pandering to the will of the electorate.

"Promise" from a known liar = truth ...not (2, Insightful)

h00manist (800926) | about 3 years ago | (#37315026)

Reading between the lines here. If an entity known for manipulating the facts is "promising" something, seems to me it is basically telling you it won't do it. If the intent was to actually do it, it would be a "contract", "law", "regulation". Or at least a "decision", "commitment" perhaps. It would come with firm numbers - percentages, dates, amounts, numbers of contracts. If the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Pinocchio or Gaddafi said "I promise", what would you count on happenning?

Re:"Promise" from a known liar = truth ...not (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 years ago | (#37315092)

Yes, as a rule unless something is actually enacted by Parliment in some way, then a politician's promise on the subject is worth no more than anyone else's.

Re:"Promise" from a known liar = truth ...not (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#37315382)

Well, they would have to be pretty crazy to say that we're going for open source no matter how poorly it fits the requirements or the estimated costs. I don't know how people are thinking, but some of it sounds a little like RMS - it doesn't matter what software is good or bad as long as one is open and the other closed, open wins. I'd rather software win on merits, neither ideology nor FUD and kickbacks.

Re:"Promise" from a known liar = truth ...not (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 3 years ago | (#37316012)

I must disagree. If you want to jump right into a vendor lock-in trap, go ahead. But a government can not be allowed to do so, for it affects everyone. This ought to be established by law: all software used by the government must be fully open.

Reality (2)

steelcobra (1042808) | about 3 years ago | (#37315034)

"Favoring" in procurement just means it gets weighted more than the closed source project. It doesn't automatically mean they'll pick it instead.

Re:Reality (0)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37315160)

"Favoring" in procurement just means it gets weighted more than the closed source project. It doesn't automatically mean they'll pick it instead.

Indeed. The author probably expects women and minorities to be hired for every job too. News Flash: Just like people are usually hired by skills first, software is purchased by capability first. "Does it integrate with Exchange?" "Does it have a silent installation/upgrade mechanism?"

Re:Reality (1)

vbraga (228124) | about 3 years ago | (#37315510)

software is purchased by capability first

Is the kind of software that comes out of Accenture and other body shops - that usually win large government contracts - the more capable software? Your standards are probably way different than mine.

Re:Reality (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 3 years ago | (#37316074)

Hmmm, unlikely that capabilities have much to do with it I'd say. I agree with you that software choice is similar to recruitment choice - mostly driven by image, prejudice, nepotism, and kickbacks, at least where governments are concerned.

Re:Reality (1)

black soap (2201626) | about 3 years ago | (#37316772)

The question usually is more like "is this compatible with the microsoft products we have already, and that everyone else is using?"

Governments should require that whatever software they use make use of open-standard file formats. Specifying a proprietary file format is just giving away another monopoly, and tacitly accepting one is barely a notch less evil.

Re:Reality (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37315292)

Exactly. There is a lot of very poor quality alternatives to commercial software, and a few high quality ones. Also Open Source has a tendency towards "I am going to put features in the code that I wan't" not "I am going to put features that most of my users want", Much the same concept that ended up hurting Novel. Novel was an Engineering based company and it put in a lot of cool features, but most of them their customers didn't really want at the time, so they slowly migrated off of Novel to Windows, Because Microsoft gave them features that the customers wanted.

Re:Reality (1)

CapuchinSeven (2266542) | about 3 years ago | (#37315518)

Because Microsoft gave them features that the customers wanted.

It's just a shame they didn't work very well.

Re:Reality (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 years ago | (#37315570)

Exactly. There is a lot of very poor quality alternatives to commercial software, and a few high quality ones. Also Open Source has a tendency towards "I am going to put features in the code that I wan't" not "I am going to put features that most of my users want"/quote>

But the prime difference between closed and open source is you can hire or contract someone and have the features you want added, regardless of what the software originator thinks, whereas with closed, you're at the mercy of the company making it.

Re:Reality (2)

dreemernj (859414) | about 3 years ago | (#37315990)

But the prime difference between closed and open source is you can hire or contract someone and have the features you want added, regardless of what the software originator thinks, whereas with closed, you're at the mercy of the company making it.

That is a false dichotomy. Closed source software is not automatically locked from further development or customizations. To use MS as an example, SharePoint developers seem pretty common these days and I've worked with a few companies that contracted out the work of adding features to Microsoft Office. It adds costs on top of the cost of the software, but, if the software covers the majority of your needs and developers can quickly add features using some simple Visual Studio add-ons, then it could still end up being a better price overall than going with an open source software package.

That doesn't mean open source always costs more or anything, but when you factor in development and support costs, it doesn't often boil down to "Open Source is cheaper." It can turn out to be far more nuanced than that.

No, you've got to parse the language (0)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#37315078)

When dealing with politics, never infer anything (that's what they want you to do). You see, they didn't actually PROMISE any such thing. A cabinet agency expressed a DESIRE to favor open source, and RECOMMENDED that government departments favor it. All of which amounts to a big ol' pile of jackshit.

Favor? (2)

Narcogen (666692) | about 3 years ago | (#37315326)

Neither the article linked nor the BBC article cited near the top of the thread even included the word "favour". One included the phrase "level playing field" suggesting that, rather than favoring one thing or another, all were to compete fairly. The other mentions open standards, not open source, which is not the same thing at all.

The summary is a bit of agenda-driven bile with no almost relation to the article it links to.

Is there a Windows-to-Linux migration How-To? (1)

h00manist (800926) | about 3 years ago | (#37315342)

Is there a windows-to-linux migration how-to somewhere that helps admins deal with the usual technical challenges in doing something like this? It's a tough challenge, in many ways. Technical, training, political. Retraining, application migration, data migration, dealing with non-portable applications, migration cost payback time calculations, etc. There should be more cooperation in helping make Linux more competitive on more front that the technical. Microsoft has entire strategies dedicated to only undercutting Linux wherever possible. The "Starter Edition" for Windows and Office have hugely reduced the numbers of machines with OpenOffice and Linux preinstalled.

Open Source? Come on... (0)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 3 years ago | (#37315110)

Their bribes are much smaller than the ones they'll get from going proprietary.

The country can take care of itself, the new car won't wait.

SHIT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315118)

to get involved in Am protesting Overly morbid and

Open STANDARDS, not open source (5, Informative)

evilandi (2800) | about 3 years ago | (#37315138)

The commitment was for open STANDARDS, not open source. Open Standards are also a good thing, but they are not the same as open source.

Re:Open STANDARDS, not open source (2)

KingMotley (944240) | about 3 years ago | (#37315224)

You are of course correct, and the submitter is just an open source troll.

Re:Open STANDARDS, not open source (1)

Vanders (110092) | about 3 years ago | (#37315304)

You're quite correct. In fact, the submitter even took an article from eWeek titled "Government Wants Open Standards For IT Procurement" and linked to it with the text "promised to favour open source systems in its procurement", which of course is wrong on two counts: they never "promised" anything and they never said they'd favour "Open Source"!

Why am I still surprised by such blatant idiocy? I've been on Slashdot long enough you'd think I'd be use to it by now.

Re:Open STANDARDS, not open source (1)

chrb (1083577) | about 3 years ago | (#37316774)

TFA links to Government Commits To Open Source Route [eweekeurope.co.uk] which states "The government has confirmed that when costs are similar, it will opt to purchase open source rather than proprietary software" and where Francis Maude's parliamentary statement is linked to, saying "The Government are committed to using more open source solutions where possible.".

Re:Open STANDARDS, not open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315354)

And "favour" does not mean blindly commit to. It is quite likely that, based on the RFPs, that the solutions picked are those that closer align with the needs of the government entity. I DO NOT want government agencies making decisions based on agendas, I want them to find solutions that best fits the needs of the citizenry.

Re:Open STANDARDS, not open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315646)

The point of favouring open standards is to avoid vendor lock-in, which should lead to more reasonable prices and comptetitive pressure to keep quality up. It is not an agenda, it is common sense.

Is the UK using truly open standards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315378)

If they are using Microsoft, the answer has to "no."

Wrong. They said "open source". (1)

chrb (1083577) | about 3 years ago | (#37316712)

No, the commitment specifically referred to open source [theyworkforyou.com] : "The Government are committed to using more open source solutions where possible." - Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister.

Re:Wrong. They said "open source". (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37318326)

No, the commitment specifically referred to open source [theyworkforyou.com] : "The Government are committed to using more open source solutions where possible." - Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister.

Where possible. That doesn't mean if there's an open source solution it wins. That means if there is an open source solution that is better we will use it. Only zealots would push to be fully open source regardless of cost and productivity of the people using it.

Nobody ever got fired for buying... (1, Insightful)

shoppa (464619) | about 3 years ago | (#37315174)

It used to be "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.".

The moral for today in my industry (semigovernmental in CIO strategy) is all about corporate brand names. i.e. if there is no corporate big brand name attached it has no chance. If there is a corporate big brand name then by definition it's OK and let into the starting gate.

IBM is still in the arena but there's a bunch other names at least in the US: Oracle, Microsoft, Computer Associates, (don't get me started on CA and their bleed-the-customer-dry strategy) or any of the major government/defense contractors.

I've been fiendish a couple of times since Oracle bought MySQL, and the only way I got MySQL into the solution (and the solution did not need any fancy pants database features!) was by arguing that since Oracle owns it, it'll be OK to do it that way.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37315336)

Governments are failure based organization. They punish failure and ignore success. This leave people to make the safe choice that will reduce failure. The safest choice it to be able to point out to everyone else who is using the product successfully.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying... (1)

Xest (935314) | about 3 years ago | (#37315430)

The times I've had the opportunity to introduce FOSS solutions in public sector in the UK the response was resoundingly positive.

The problem is during my time working in public sector there weren't any people like me deciding on the big contracts. The people deciding one larger rollouts were more interested in how hot the sales girl was.

Unfortunately for FOSS, FOSS lobby groups don't send out any hot sales girls to be perved at by 55 yr old men waiting out their last few years for early retirement with a gold plated final salary pension scheme. Most those people in government don't give a shit what the product is, once they've reached that level they're just holding on for an easy retirement and when they're at that point, and they're that apathetic towards their jobs they're just swayed by things that make waiting out those last few years a bit easier- attractive young ladies, invitations to nice places to "examine new technology offerings", free "gifts", that sort of thing.

Public sector is just a game to those people in it at this kind of level, it's a way out of doing a real worthwhile job where there's real actual accountability. It's an easy ride, with a fat payoff if you never actually managed to get a decent wage through actually performing well and being a competent employee as you must in private sector much more of the time.

I never found brand names a barrier to entry in public sector, on the contrary we ended up lumped with some really unheard of, really shit software because the people at those firms knew how to play the public sector game- the quality of their product was irrelevant, a few hot sales girls, a trip to their nice offices coupled with all expenses paid meals at a nice restaurant and some free gifts, that was all that was needed for the contract. Unfortuately the people who actually do the work in public sector are then left to pick up the pieces when said system no one's heard of before inevitably fails.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying... (1)

Harold Halloway (1047486) | about 3 years ago | (#37315460)

It used to be "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.".

Yet I once got fired for calling my boss 'a cunt'. It's a harsh, miserable, unfair world.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying... (1)

Jahava (946858) | about 3 years ago | (#37315462)

It used to be "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.". The moral for today in my industry (semigovernmental in CIO strategy) is all about corporate brand names. i.e. if there is no corporate big brand name attached it has no chance. If there is a corporate big brand name then by definition it's OK and let into the starting gate. IBM is still in the arena but there's a bunch other names at least in the US: Oracle, Microsoft, Computer Associates, (don't get me started on CA and their bleed-the-customer-dry strategy) or any of the major government/defense contractors. I've been fiendish a couple of times since Oracle bought MySQL, and the only way I got MySQL into the solution (and the solution did not need any fancy pants database features!) was by arguing that since Oracle owns it, it'll be OK to do it that way.

Not that you're incorrect, but that's exactly what companies like Canonical (Ubuntu), Red Hat (RHEL, KVM), and EnterpriseDB (PostgreSQL) are there to do. It's perfectly reasonable for large investments to require the backing of companies with technical expertise, support, warranties, and liability. That shouldn't be a barrier of entry, however, as the open-source world has its own representation in those areas.

They may actually BE favoring open source... (3, Insightful)

Carik (205890) | about 3 years ago | (#37315210)

... and discovering that it won't work for them, for whatever reason.

They didn't say "We'll move to 50% OSS in the next year," they said "We'll look at it favorably." If they look at it and discover that, despite the costs involved in their existing software, they can't actually afford to move their data to an open source equivalent, it's not going to happen. And if it turns out there ISN'T an open source equivalent, it's really not going to happen.

While I'm not saying OSS is always more expensive -- it usually is a lot cheaper, in my experience -- there can be times when it's cheaper to stick with what you've got. Think about it. If all your data is in a proprietary system in a non-standard format, and you don't have anyone on staff who can update it, it's going to be expensive to make the switch. That one time cost may be a lot more than you have in your budget for the yearly licensing fees of that proprietary system. After all, that's WHY that proprietary system uses its own unique data format....

Re:They may actually BE favoring open source... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316618)

If you have a proprietary system in a non-standard format, and you don't have anyone on staff that can update it, you've got more to worry about than the cost of switching. :)

"Favour" does not equal "award" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37315252)

I'm not sure how the UK does it, but many of the US gov selection processes I've been involved in use a weighted assessment for picking a technical solution. A bunch of desired features are given point values and are weighted on importance. So on a 100 point scale, having a question like "Is it open source?" worth 1 point is actually favoring open source (all else being equal, open source will win).

Re:"Favour" does not equal "award" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316602)

The problem is that the "consultants" who help the various bodies decide which features are most important to them are often from vendors who have a vested interest in that department continuing to use their systems and/or software.

The specifications are usually written up including phrases such as "Vendor must be located within X-miles of Town-Y." Put enough of those in there and there will only ever be one company that is able to match the requirements as set out.

Sad, but true.

- An ICT Professional

Lobbying capability (0)

MrKaos (858439) | about 3 years ago | (#37315272)

I think you just have to look at who can afford to lobby government and provide more donations to political parties. The altruism of the Open Source Community is often used against it and, frankly, is seen as a source of cheap and excellent labour by technology companies. OSS is great, pervasive and largely unknown because those who know how to commercialise it, exploit it to their own ends.

I won' t bother naming names because of the inevitable clueless fanboi attack I'm likely to be subjected to, but those companies are out there pumping donations into political parties and lobbying government to use their products. All that OSS has to offer is greater government efficiency and saving the taxpayer money and what sane politician would want that.

Open Licences such as BSD and Apache have allowed these companies to plunder the intellectual capital of the Open Source Community whilst they marginalise it. That's not a criticism of those licences as that is their goal but until the day comes when there are hundreds of thousands of Open Source based services companies eating away at these corporate marauders who contribute nothing and use the community nothing will change.

Until legislation alters the way corporates can donate to political parties the playing field will never be level, the corporate will always have the advantage over the community. Wealth generation is the key goal of technology, and generating wealth with Open Source Technology is not yet well understood inside the community who creates it.

Doesn't surprise me all that much. (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about 3 years ago | (#37315332)

First up: Any government department that's got a significant investment in IT can't just go out and replace, say, Microsoft Office with LibreOffice overnight. There's a huge amount of testing to do, and when you hit upon things like Access databases and Excel spreadsheets that have become an entire department's IT system, it's very tempting to say "Stuff it. We'll stick with Office."

It's even more tempting when the F/OSS firm says "Yes, we can replace all those things - it'll cost £X hundred thousand, mind." The cost of a migration to a newer version of Office isn't seen by the higher-ups for the exact same reason that these databases and spreadsheets were able to become so widespread without anyone noticing - the people that maintain them won't make a big song and dance, they'll simply quietly beaver away tweaking their database so it works in the Latest Greatest Version. The cost of that isn't seen.

Second up: Something that a lot of people in IT don't realise unless/until they start their own business. Marketing something with any degree of success is remarkably hard - and it's as much an art as it is a science. At first, "make it free of charge" (or even "Make it remarkably cheap") sounds like an absolute corker of a strategy. How can anyone fail to sell a product when the cost is zero? Hell, you could probably throw up a website and have the world beating a path to your door inside a few days!

It doesn't work like that. If you're buying a product of any significance, the choice of product probably comes more from the salesman than from the product itself. As soon as you start saying things like "the software is free, but you'd have to pay for consulting to make it all work together" - you've got two huge problems. "The software is free" is the classic "sounds too good to be true" offer that will usually be regarded with extreme suspicion - and as soon as you say just one thing that makes your prospect suspicious of you, that's it. You've lost their trust and you won't get it back again. If you've ever watched Dragons' Den (I believe the US equivalent is called "Shark Tank"), you'll have seen exactly this happen.

The second problem is the "you'd have to pay for consulting" bit. The IT consulting industry doesn't exactly have a spotless reputation; anyone who's been in industry for any length of time can tell you all about the consultant they brought in at great expense who over-promised and under-delivered. At least with a COTS package there's the possibility of being able to evaluate it for some time before going ahead, that's greatly reduced when you're paying for one-off work.

Re:Doesn't surprise me all that much. (1)

paulo.casanova (2222146) | about 3 years ago | (#37317964)

Also you must factor in the business-aware factor. People who ultimately make the buy decision are not usually that tech-savvy and like to see products from a "business perspective". They like to hear about their business terminology, the keywords they are familiar with. You can argue in favor or against this but it is a reality. Open source software (and its enthusiasts) usually come with three main arguments: (1) cost, (2) quality and (3) evolution/maintenance. I've seen these arguments failing routinely.

The cost argument fails both because a product's whole cost is tied to its market value and people are suspicious about free. They believe that a greater cost comes in the form of consulting or similar which means a much higher risk of budget and time overruns. The quality argument fails because it is not measurable. You can measure an engine's house power or a car's maximum speed but you can't measure the quality or fitness for purpose of a COTS easily so it boils down to confidence. How likely is software X from (Microsoft|Oracle|IBM|SAP) likely to work as advertised vs software Y from (place you favorite open source company here)? And gaining confidence is an art which big companies are very good at.

The last point is maintenance or evolution. Big CIO is pretty sure that Microsoft will be around here for the next years as well as IBM or Oracle. Even is some big merger occurs the products will be supported (theoretically). But what about, say, Canonical? Or EnterpriseDB?

As hard as it may be to accept, Marketing (and Publicity) has real effect on people and open source fails miserably most of the time...

Re:Doesn't surprise me all that much. (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 3 years ago | (#37318228)

And gaining confidence is an art which big companies are very good at.

It's more than that. I missed it in my original comment, but a lot of people perceive a product has a value broadly equivalent to the amount it's being sold at. (This is part of the reason Apple are able to sell the iPad for a relatively high price yet nobody else can sell a clone for anything like that price. Apple have a reputation of selling a premium product which no other consumer technology firm can really claim - therefore when Apple say "an iPad is worth £400" it follows that a clone product is worth considerably less).

So when a product is being punted at a big fat zero - you might as run an expensive advertising campaign with the catchy tagline "This product is so appalling we can't even give it away" because that's the perception you're feeding.

Re:Doesn't surprise me all that much. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 years ago | (#37318270)

First up: Any government department that's got a significant investment in IT can't just go out and replace, say, Microsoft Office with LibreOffice overnight.

Microsoft treats MS Office as one component of an integrated office system that scales to an enterprise of any size.

Client-Server-Web applications. Tools for deployment. Tools for management.

Strong third-party support. Tutorials and resources of every kind. Training and staff available everywhere south of the Artic Circle.

While LibreOffice is fundamentally nothing more than an immature, stand-alone, office suite recently forked from OpenOffice.org.

From reading the article (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 3 years ago | (#37315642)

From reading the article, these are large contracts for large systems. While the UK might want to favor open source (which I doubt, but that is a different post), the companies bidding on the projects are pitching existing systems that are then modified. Raytheon, one of the bidders mentioned several times in the article probably doesn't have an open source alternative. Likewise for the other bidders.

So, even if the UK were wanting to encourage open source, if the major players don't offer any alternatives to their proprietary or custom offerings, what is the procurement office supposed to do?

Re:From reading the article (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 3 years ago | (#37316174)

Stop outsourcing and hire a decent architect, some skilled engineers, and some testers would be a good start, but for all the wrong reasons we know that will never happen. Noone wants the hired help getting comfy pensions any more, better to give all the public money to people who will give decent kickbacks as discussed above.

Re:From reading the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317856)

Raytheon, one of the bidders mentioned several times in the article probably doesn't have an open source alternative.

It also demonstrates the cluelessness of the people writing this stuff, that they don't seem to follow the news. Raytheon's main contract was terminated [bbc.co.uk] shortly after the current government came to power. It's quite likely they haven't bid at all since.

It's illustrates what a massive fail it is to look at spend and infer about contracts. Most big contracts are going to be multi-year; there really isn't time to see much of a dent, since the election; particularly when about 3/4 of the data actually predates it.
Really, if people can't be bothered to discount data from before the election, they should wait for someone who has a clue to analyze it, rather than pontificating.

the numbers mix license with support cost (1)

Emil_and_the_Detecti (1216768) | about 3 years ago | (#37316272)

The numbers contain for example HAYS IT. I guess its refereing to http://www.hays.co.uk/ [hays.co.uk] which do not sell any license only services. So they have hired some consultants from that company for doing whatever their job was. But they spend no money on licenses. I guess they still would need those people no matter if its Open Source Software or not.

not my experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316404)

I'm sure there are a lot of slashdot readers, reading from segregated departmental internet machines giggling over this article. The secure gov sector went nuts for Linux a decade ago and have buckets of open source gear. The biggest hurdle I had was that "Open Source" means something entirely different in the industry and took a while to explain. The decisions I was involved in were not based on cost; purely capability, uptime and securability.

Anyone who worked those bits of gov will remember the wierdo "SE" versions of NT (which amusingly once gave me a choice of password as SUK-COK-TIT) -- Microsoft discontinued NT SE after v4, which was good enough reason to investigate new operating systems because XP couldn't be made secure.

Corruption (1)

ronmon (95471) | about 3 years ago | (#37316634)

FOSS developers don't pay kickbacks. It's as simple as that.

This is never going to happen...why pretend it is? (1)

Tomsk70 (984457) | about 3 years ago | (#37316638)

...and frankly, I'm suprised that this is being talked about - I would have thought the press would have taken the Gov. to task for suggesting this a year ago, not complain now that (surprise suprise) it's not happening.

Why would the gov. go open source?

Just one example from the article -

>rather than seeking cheaper open source alternatives.

Which instantly exposes the issue of cost. Cheaper how? Do you really think the cost savings on a country-wide MS license are going to cover the years of contracts you'd need to pay engineers (no-one is going to do this work for standard gov. money) to combine multiple systems across the UK? Why do you think the majority of private enterprises aren't doing this? (Please, don't insist they are - when I see the ratio of linux/ MS contract jobs change, we'll talk).

So, in short this article will be ignored in the same way OpenOffice is ignored when their CEO uses 'downloaded' figures to suggest an existing userbase.

Hold on! (1)

vegaspctech (769513) | about 3 years ago | (#37316836)

Is the OP suggesting that one or more politicans may have lied? That's unprecedented! I supposed next he'd have us believe that beer drinkers belch or that the whole notion of royalty is sadly dated and rather silly. ;-P

HMG - ITIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317714)

Note for example that Her Majesty's Government does not freely provide the specifications of the so-called standard, ITIL.

They shouldn't favor either OSS or non-OSS (1)

lgarner (694957) | about 3 years ago | (#37317876)

It's simple. They shouldn't favor one over the other sight unseen. Hopefully (but not likely) they'd be considering all options equally and choosing the right tool for the job. Open-source won't always be the right tool.
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