back to article Cabinet Office pushes suppliers on open source

The government's deputy chief information officer has told suppliers that it wants to open source technology to feature in its ICT strategy. Bill McCluggage met with suppliers last week to make clear that the Cabinet Office, which leads on ICT policy, wishes to increase the deployment of open source across government. He …


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  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    And I'd like to be on first name terms and phone numbers with supermodels.

    But' something tells me that won't happen either.

    Govt con-tractors are *very* adept at re-phrasing their stuff to make it *look* like the mark^h^h^h^h customer is getting what they asked for while it's BAU in the back room.

    Making *any*new apps operate on *internet* standards and not Microsoft (or Google or Apple) standards would be a start.

    In reality *how* many people wake up and think "Yes, I think I can do a better Social Security system just for the hell of it"?

    However *breaking* those monolithic monster apps into *smaller* functions, *some* of which will be available as open source (NASA's Martian landers support software were built on an open source framework, including some quite specialised stuff you might not think was available *in* an open source version) is feasible.

    *cautious* thumbs up. Doubt it will go anywhere.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Campanologists Ringing in the Changes

    Now there's a novelty. It wouldn't be having anything to do the fact that Silicon Valley methodology and rather pedestrian, binary technology is hacked/cracked/hi-jacked, would it? Or is that a little something which Intelligence has yet to filter through to the servants in Cabinet Offices and governments?

    The Treasure Hunt starts here .....

  3. The BigYin

    Well now...

    ...this will be interesting.

    OOXML is an ISO standard (after the committee was massaged to vote the correct way). However Word et al do not implement OOXML as defined in the ISO standard and (according to RMS) one cannot implement the format use within MS Office without infringing MS patents. So it is impossible for anyone other than MS to correctly implement the format used within MS Office.

    That little lot would seem to preclude the use of MS Office within any government department.

    Of course, there is a massive get out in the documentation that states (I paraphrase) "Use OSS unless OSS can't do the job".

    Then there will be weasel words "This is only guidance....", "We outsourced that function...", "We are a private contractor selling services, we are not bound by that document..." etc.

    "h-online" has an article on it and a link to the Cabinet Office document.

    I expect exactly nothing to change. Big money speaks too well to MPs and civil servants.

  4. david 63

    As far as I remember...

    The E-envoy guidelines has long had a "consider open source" clause. The problem is there is no incentive for suppliers to put it forward.

    This is the sort of conversation I used to have with my old CTO:

    Me: This is an excellent opportunity to offer and open source solution

    CTO: How many M$ licenses will we be able to bundle in

    Me: I have put together a solution for all open source

    CTO: How many M$ licenses will we be able to bundle in

    Me: I'm not sure you are getting this. I've done a POC with completely free software that we have the sources for and we can make it do what we want.

    CTO: How many M$ licenses will we be able to bundle in

    Me: None

    CTO: Our relationship with M$, Gold Partner Status, Software Assurance, Proven technology low risk, blah blah blah...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There can be an incentive..

      Depending on licencing of course. If the customisation to the open source software can be licensed with a healthy margin (approaching 100%, after initial development costs have been met) then there's no reason not to use open source.

      As you imply, though, often it's not possible to do this - especially if you have to GPL away your code. Given a choice of possibly making some money on supporting a free (as in beer, once the source code has been released though GPL) solution vs selling your own licences, retaining control of the source and making ongoing margin on third party products. Gee, I wonder why everyone doesn't go open source given that equation!

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      @david 63

      "Our relationship with M$, Gold Partner Status, Software Assurance, Proven technology low risk, "

      But *mostly* the Gold Partner Status.

      I'm amazed you were allowed to work there.

      Yes it will be the money.

      Thumbs down for the employer, not your approach.

  5. Shadowfirebird


    Very nice. Excellent.

    I'll believe it when I see them actually doing it.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Actually, it might be easier than you think

    A fair chunk of stuff could be ditched already; Office for Libre office. In reality anything of any consequence runs on a server which is non-microsoft iron, because Microsoft SQL has serious performance limitations. In those case it would be a re-design of the client front-end.

    This can al be got around with Citrix delivering non-linux apps to a series of clients running Linux, and then as the vendors change their applications, everything can come across to Linux steadily over time and as it does, Citrix licence costs can be reduced.

    The fact is that the vendors need a kick up the arse anyway, because they all do rapid development that relies on MS Office libraries to the extent that we've got to install separate virtual servers for every crappy application system that requires its own particular version of MS server and its own particular version of MS Office ... on the server!

  7. Jacqui


    FLOSS is mentioned every time the .gov want a discount. I know a few peeps that have been led into doing free evaluation exercises for various councils and these days they know better. They CHARGE for the time the evaluation takes. If they are asked to bid they ask for the details and terms, who is the impartial evaluator etc. If no details they privide a cost for the bid process!

    Quite simply, almost all councils are asking for a FLOSS bid for one reason only - to get a discount by making it look like there is a competitor but they will always be a MS-shop. as staff get far too many perks such as training courses, overtime to do upgrades and fix borked business wide patches etc.

  8. ijustwantaneasylife

    Define the interfaces and other standards

    I think you're all missing the big picture here. The important part of this is the phrase "...including open standards and interoperability as key components in IT systems...".

    When you develop software, it's always easier if you have pre-defined interfaces and message standards to work with, and this is where most public-facing (and private for that matter) systems go wrong. This despite the fact that UK Govt does actually have message standards available (just Google - there's loads of them).

    In other words if you want, say, a system that allows you to exchange patient records between a public health body and a GP surgery then just define the messages that pass between them.

    In that situation, it doesn't matter if one system is open source and one is proprietary so it's then easier to introduce open source OR proprietary (if it's a better platform) in stages until a 'best of breed' solution is arrived at.

    It also stops ridiculous attempts to build 'national systems' where the only companies that can implement them are the usual 'over budget/over time' suspects.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Telling the wrong people

    "The government's deputy chief information officer has told suppliers..."

    It's not the suppliers that want telling, it's their own CIOs e.g. Phil "the answer's SAP, now what was the question?" Pavitt at HMRC.

  10. David Gale

    Fundamental misunderstanding of the problem

    No sign of any change with a change of government then? Same old, same old. When are you guys in government going to get it? Open source in itself does not deliver a sustainable architure for a Strategic IT Framework that enables cross-agency, cloud-based sharing and transformation.

    Ah but wait! Before the election, you DID get it. Either the big suppliers have pressurised government back to the previous status quo or government is just totally incompetent...

    My open letter to Francis Maude:

    David Gale


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