Feeds

Number 10 shuts wallet on closed-source IT projects

Come back when you've read Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Top three mobile application threats

Government IT projects that don’t explore alternatives to closed and proprietary software are getting kicked back and denied funding.

The civil servant running open source, open standards and information management under No 10’s digital change agenda called such spending controls a “key gateway” in complying with new IT procurement rules.

Those new rules encourage re-use of technology, low-cost solutions and greater use of SME suppliers in the UK public sector's IT shopping catalogue G-Cloud - rather than simply renewing existing IT contracts from systems integrators who control the product code and the customer relationship.

And it’s the Cabinet Office, running G-Cloud, that is vetoing spending.

“They [the Cabinet Office] are not there to make friends, they can easily say: ‘That's rubbish, you haven’t looked at cloud or open source options, go back and look again',” Home Office lead architect Tariq Rashid told the Open Gov Summit on Wednesday in London.

“We know not all senior leaders in the public sector get involved in ‘techie stuff.’ But when the projects they have worked on for two to three years hit a brick wall, that's a painful process.”

Asked by The Reg whether projects had already been kicked back, he replied “yes”. “The Home Office has experienced that challenge as an example,” he said.

He did not say which projects.

Former G-Cloud director Chris Chant had told The Reg in April that control over departments' spending might be one way to ensure greater use of G-Cloud. There is no mandate that specifies G-Cloud must be used for government IT.

Spot checks on departments’ consideration during procurement and their use of open source are also being evaluated. This is something Rashid admitted is not universally popular. Greater self-assessment is also being considered.

“Some [departments] go further and are benefiting from creating open source to share, consuming open source other colleagues have created and becoming centres of excellence. At the moment, that's how they self-assess. We will do more work around this,” Rashid said.

Rashid said the government does not have a target for use of open source, but simply wants to ensure open source is given a level playing field against closed code.

“We believe open source isn't properly considered when we are doing IT. Our objective is not to have a target for open source in government – a year on year increase. Our objective is to best explore the opportunities out there. Sometimes that might be open source. At the moment, we believe we are missing out on the opportunities.”

Open source, because the code’s open, means government can diversify its suppliers, potentially enjoying greater choice and lower prices.

Rashid reckoned those running government IT projects are still clinging to outdated ideas on open source, which is tipping the playing field against it. “If government makes it harder to work with open source, that's bad and means we have perhaps a bias to very expensive software and those who can buy it. Clearly that's not right.

“Open source is not a toy – I have to sometimes say this, because part of the problem we are trying to solve is the understanding and the familiarity of open source is not as great in the public sector,” he said.

Security is a big problem, with the lingering belief that open source code is at greater risk to attack than closed, proprietary software. The government has convinced the CESG, which sets security standards in government, to address this issue with a statement saying open source as a category is no more or less secure than closed proprietary software.

Rashid added that it’s vital open source is considered as an infrastructure choice, not merely an add-on, as this would influence how systems are developed and supported in future.

“If we as a public sector want to spend money effectively in 2012 it’s not good enough not to know what open source is... those of us in charge of foundational architectures must understand why open architecture that give you technological and commercial flexibility and choice down stream,” he said. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.