back to article works on YET ANOTHER open-source push

Yet another government definition for the term "open standards" is incoming because the Home Office isn't satisfied with the current wording of its so-called Action Plan. The department's IT wonk Tariq Rashid confirmed at an open source forum in Oxford yesterday that the government had been "lobbying against" the current …


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  1. AndrueC Silver badge

    Same ol'

    >But it remains unclear how the government will move on from the same rhetoric used by the Coalition and New Labour that only ever seems to speak of action, a plan, or indeed an action plan to make open source procurement a reality.

    That's could be said of almost anything that any recent UK government has done. They either create a new committee, pass a new law or do both. Genuine action is rarely forthcoming except when it involves taxation.

  2. Red Bren

    Compelling reasons

    "part of the problem with the lack of OSS adoption is that the government's own IT people often struggle to find a compelling enough reason to ditch a proprietary product for an open source equivalent."

    A compelling reason being a corporate funded junket?

    1. MGJ

      No (sadly)

      Until there is a proper support structure in place, why would I choose a product with limited or no support if it goes wrong, versus one that has support but may cost slightly more? A recent piece of work I was involved in looked at JBOSS as an option compared to the Oracle stack. At the time, (and I'm not sure if it is yet) RedHat had not got its products cleared to use/process GMPS protected material.

  3. proto-robbie

    Start with the big one...

    ...ban MS Office. Pour encourager les autres. It hasn't changed for the better in 14 years anyway.

    1. MGJ

      Are you volunteering to retrain all the staff?

      And rewite all the exisitng corporate applications that link in to the MS office suite. Costs soon ramp up when compared to a seven year replacement programme (we're on Office versions with 2003 in them)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Retraining? Rubbish!

        How many people use Word and Excel on a daily basis and have had no formal training whatsoever?

        Answer: Most!

        This "retraining" thing is a myth. Sit anyone with half a brain in front of any generic word processor and they'll be able to use 90% of it before the day is out. That is 90% of the stuff they actually NEED to use, rather than 90% of the junk functionality that nobody ever uses.

        1. MGJ


          You are saying that MS products are so easy to learn to use that there is no cost there. ;-)

          A days productivity for 50,000 staff soon adds up to a big cost though for each change.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        retraining bull!

        The transition from Office2003 (or previous versions) to Open/Libre Office is a damned site easir than going to Office2007/2010.

        The last 2 version of MS Office are just awful to use as everything has been moved, renamed, or hiden in a dark corner.

        I cannot think of a single person who didn't just run OpenOffice Writer/Calc and get straight to work.

        The first thing the Gov. should do is mandate that every document produced for public download and consumption must be in ODT (for read/write) or PDF (for readonly) formats.

        I was surpised to find that Office2010 asks you for your prefered document format when installed, I chose ODT over DOCX.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Open Source vs Free

    Trouble is, many people confuse Open Source with FREE.... the two aren't always the same and thats where it falls down.

    There's even much confusion over when something is actually free to use - although the answer isn't hard to find.

    That and who to blame when stuff goes wrong is why many struggle to adopt Open Source systems in big business and government. Even though its unlikely even a very large customer carries enough clout to make bugs go away quicker with a commercial product vs a currently developed open source product.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Civil Servants!!

    Having worked in a government body that was being privatized, we had an IT director who didn't even own a computer at home. He'd been placed in the post as there was nowhere else for him.

    His security adviser was only used to dealing with physical security, and thought a firewall something you could ignore.

    How can you fight that type management to bring forward new ideas? since that time I've heard of many others experiencing the same sort of issues where politics was preferred to getting the job done.

  6. daldred

    And then there's the tender rules....

    One other issue which needs resolving is the formal process for tender which is required where a contract value of over £125k (or thereabouts - I can't remember exactly) is to be awarded.

    Taking an unrealistically simple example to illustrate the point: say you were equipping a 1000-PC unit with software and think it's likely to cost you £150 per machine, or thereabouts. Then because anticipated contract value is over £125k, you have to enter a formal tendering process - which is rightly designed to get competitive quotes and so make sure you get the best value.

    But the Open Source alternative has a purchase cost of nil, and no-one's making money out of it - so no-one looks for the tendering opportunities and puts in bids. So there's no Open Source response to the advertised opportunity, so Open Source not only isn't, but at this stage can't be considered.

    That is simplistic - and presumably there'd also be support as a contract element, so an OS-based company might well have an interest in tendering - but the process of putting in a bid is often complex and costly, so there's a big disincentive to anyone not making big profits out of supplying things. And that biasses the whole process in favour of the big, and generally closed-source, companies.

    1. CABVolunteer

      And then there's the consultants.....

      Many (most?) projects of this size are managed by consultants who need to justify their large fees. If the price of the software selected for the project is zero, that invoice for consultancy fees looks embarassingly large - much easier to opt for the most expensive products.

    2. Is it me?

      If only the world was simple

      As an IT provider to government, we always look at Open source as a method of reducing costs, but we tend to hit a number of brick walls, for serious applications.

      GPMS - Government requires us to use only products certified to EAL standards, the higher the GPMS, the higher EAL needed. Getting an EAL certification costs a lot of money, and requires very tight source control, so in the main we would have to foot the bill of gettig CESG, or another certifying body to certify someone elses product, ultimately pro-bono, not going to happen. IF CESG were to go and certify Open Source products for use in government, then no problem, but they have to charge for their services at present, and Open Source vendors can't afford them.

      Support - IT Suppliers have this inexorable march towards Microsoft as being cheap to support, because staff costs are low, and weverybody knows it. Wen we actually recommend a LAMP product, the support costs go up to discourage its use. (This is also true for any UNIX environment). The decision makers who made the MS march choice are pretty much still in post, only higher up the chain, so have no incentive to stand up and say they were wrong.

      The customer - Particularly in the desktop environment, government departments don't want to move, 10 - 15 years ago they all moved to Office, because that's what the staff wanted, they used it at home and they still remeber that it cost a lot of money to shift from Wordstar, Display Write, Lotus and Word Perfect, which they justified as a cost saving, and a lot of those decision makers are still in place, so we have the same problem there as internally.

      Enterprise Deals - Oracle, and Microsoft have Enterprise deals that make the use of their products a lot cheaper than deal by deal offerings, and will also reduce ongoing support costs, if a customer has one, then in some cases use of their products is actually free to the bid or project, you need a damn good reason not to use these deals, They cost the customer a lot up front, but long term cost reductions are bankable. OGC likes them as well.

      Most of us highly paid IT consultants know the value of Open Source, as much as any other software, and make our recommendations based on what's best for the customer business, at a price they can afford and what will win us business, the two are not the same. Open source is alive and well, Apache and Linux are used a lot in appliances, and always feature in strength in depth implementations. A lot of areas where GPMS can be mitigated tend to use open source products as well, but they are usually in there as components to one of the big boys products.

  7. Jacqui


    A recent comment mentioned that one SMB bid was rejected because the company did nto employ enough/any indian staff. Evidently the (london) council wanted all ifnormation about staff including sexual orientation - all of which is a serious no-no under the DPA.

    Nothing changes - public bodies will use any excuse to ensure the backhanders and training/presentation jollies from the big suppliers keep rolling in.

    From pretty much every SMB consultancy I know, the opinion seems to be that the majority of we will consider your bid for this project is simply an information gathering exercise or it is being used to force the incumbent supplier to drop this years bid.

    To add insult to injury some places quote the fact that they are SMBs as the reason they did not win - "not commercialy suitable/viable" is a kick in the teeth.

    If they invite you to bid, dont give them free consultancy.

  8. JDX Gold badge


    Banning Office would remove the best tool there is... the alternatives are NOWHERE NEAR as full-featured when you come to do complicated stuff. Granted much of the usage is for simple things but most of the cost is elsewhere.

    1. Tom 7


      just cos you format it pretty doesn’t make it any more useful if no-one reads it.

      Ten lines of good code on a companies server do more for a company than the 5000 documents containing disorganised data that requires another 10 MS servers and licenses to search through so the bolts can be slid in place once the horse has died in your competitors stud farm.

      The modern office - automating the wastepaper bin.

      I'd imagine the true amount of information exchanged in this forum thread this morning exceeds that achieved by all the documents the contributors make in a week using office software.

    2. Magnus_Pym

      That is the advantage of an open format.

      The hardcore users can have office if they can justify the expense. The send-a-letter-a-couple-of-times-a-week brigade don't need it. They can all read each other documents so you can mix and match.

  9. Magnus_Pym

    Blame culture

    A significant amount of the stuff written about this links into the phase 'Yes but who do we blame when it goes wrong?'.

    This has been the corporate sell since the earliest days of IBM. The logic of this leads to 'We don't care what goes wrong as long as I don't get the blame'. This means the Government will always end up buying bad products/services from suppliers that don't mind taking the heat.

    You don't have to look far for proof of this theory.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First step to overcoming resistance

    Point out all the Open Source software they are using without even realising: Apeache, Tomcat, etc

  11. Tom 7

    Dilbert has it right

  12. Anonymous Coward


    "There seems to be a different feel and there's a lot of interest from politicians," he said.

    Yeah, it's trendy to be with the underdog for the moment so they get on-board! Pillock!

  13. Luke McCarthy


    I couldn't care less what software the gubmint uses. As for wasting money, software is the least of my concerns.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    What is with this shit about Open software not co$ting?

    It costs $ervice. You pay for it with a *Service Contract*.

    Like you do with any reputable vendor.

    exempli gratia:

    The only difference is you get to open the box and see the cat before you buy it.


  15. Dave Bell

    In-house skills

    Open Source seems to be no different to proprietary is you don't have the skills in-house to manage the software use.

    You have to trust somebody else, for instance, to ensure security.

    There is a perception that access to the source code means that somebody could add a security loophole. Yet without that access by the supplier, you just push the vulnerability back a step, out of the hands of the supplier.

    I've seen that happen: a piece of software which used some proprietary graphics code to handle JPEG files, in the form of a DLL. Somebody, who had access to the source to the DLL, put in some sort of spyware. When that came out, it killed the product. (The crook got caught doing other bad things, and the whole affair unravelled.)

    I don't have the skill to check the source code. But if it's Open Source, there's somebody out there who can.

    Maybe too much has been privatised to be able to check anything?

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