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'Misconceptions' battle

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The adoption barrier

He said one barrier to wider adoption of open source is simply ignorance. He quoted the case where the White House is using Drupal and LAMP on its web site but he'd talked to somebody building a collaboration project elsewhere who had never heard of Drupal.

"If you are in technology you know they are there, but if you walk around and just poll the general public folks... They know about Microsoft but most people look at me with surprise because it's [open source] not advertised and there's on marketing.

"What needs to happen [now] is every agency in federal government needs to adopt a policy similar to this. When you don't adopt it, you push it [open source] underground."

The DoD's statement was certainly a major coup for the OSA and prospective suppliers of open source software and services to government. The Department has the US government's largest single discretionary spending budget for 2010 of all departments: $663.7bn, an increase of 12 per cent.

Open-source business-intelligence specialist Jaspersoft now counts the government as its consistently second biggest vertical sector, up from around the sixth, seventh, and eighth. Jaspersoft - an OSA member - lists the DoD, Department of Energy, and NASA among the 12 federal agencies using it.

But Jaspersoft chief executive Brian Gentile said barriers still exist that need to be broken down. These barriers range from people not knowing that open-source equivalents to proprietary software exists, not understanding the licenses, or procurement not being set up to pay for software or services on a flat, ongoing subscription basis.

Government procurement is typically geared up to pay a big lump sum up front and to also expect a sharp reduction in their payments in following years - or to haggle for deep discounts on a scale open-source projects that come in cheaper than closed source can't be met by companies like Jaspersoft.

"Sometimes it takes weeks and weeks and months and months before they understand," Gentile said. "If a procurement officer is bonused on discounts that puts us in a bad situation."

Help wanted

Jaspersoft's government business has benefited from the downturn in the economy, as departments look for lower-priced options now their IT budgets are frozen.

Still, Gentile said, open-source companies need help in dealing with departments while government needs help in understanding how open-source can help them save tax dollars. According to Gentile, while Jaspersoft has grown, it should be growing more. The fact it isn't shows government departments aren't using enough open source, he claimed.

"We absolutely do need more help," Gentile said. "More memos like we see with the DoD are required to highlight that principle as highly as it can be. A directive from the US chief technology officer and CIO that proposed commercial open-source software should be considered in every category... It would set the right tone for discussion." ®

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