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CIA tells big biz to serve up bite-size software

Spies want latest shiny tech on pay-as-you-go

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The CIA has told big software firms that it plans to ditch long-term licenses in favour of a slurp-as-you-go approach to new technology.

The US spy service said it didn't want to splash out on enterprise licensing agreements and then getting stuck with old technology, but wanted to buy bits and pieces of software on a metered basis, according to Reuters.

"Think Amazon," the CIA's chief tech officer Ira "Gus" Hunt told an industry conference in the States. "That model really works."

Hunt said that spooks didn't want to use the same proprietary software for long periods any more, because it meant the agency couldn't be flexible and switch to the latest shiny stuff. And because the spies were stuck on old tech, it was harder for them to stay on top of big data at a time when they're trying, like everyone else, to cut their costs.

Being quite a secretive lot, the CIA doesn't comment on how much it spends on software, or indeed what it spends on anything, and the agency wouldn't say if they'd already started to demand pay-as-you-go licences or not.

However, Hunt said that the agency would allow its vendors to "peek under the covers" of its operations so that they could ascertain whether it was fairly accounting for what it was using under a metered deal.

"Don't kid yourself that we can't do this thing because we can," he said.

Hunt was speaking to a conference on emerging technologies organised by the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association's Washington DC chapter, which had big software houses from HP and Cisco to Juniper Networks and Red Hat in attendance.

"We're not out there trying to screw you [but] you really need to think differently about how we do these things," he added. ®

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