It’s time for OSS

There’s no excuse any more. Open source software is just as good – if not better than closed source at a fraction of the price. The most pressing need if for us to get rid of Microsoft Operating systems. Not only is Linux very good but there are alternatives that even support Windows hardware drivers.

No surprise, perhaps, that some Councils are thinking ahead.  I don’t normally copy directly from another blog but this summary from Bristol City Council pretty much sums-up the issues for local government:-

BCC progress to date on OSS solutions

  • BCC needed to replace its desktop software and related infrastructure, and initiated an update project 18 months ago; driven by:
  • Legacy and ageing software
  • Enabling efficiency of IT support service
  • Enabling business change, new ways of working, for council staff and partners
  • ICT customer surveys – 60% of complaints about inability of current business tools to do job
  • The opportunity to deliver an end to end OSS environment was investigated.
  • BCC’s experience since 2005 highlighted issues surrounding StarOffice/OpenOffice  document exchange with partners and government.
  • BCC also locked into many business/enterprise software systems that do not support integration with StarOffice/OpenOffice or OpenDocument Format
  • Pragmatic decision taken on Windows and MS Office for 3 years with ability to deploy OSS if preferred
  • Journey to a more flexible IT infrastructure needs to focus on open standards as the key to enabling opportunity for open source
  • Noted that OSS should be considered against business need, not for it’s own sake
  • Outside of desktop project, OSS being considered and selected:
  • Drupal has been introduced successfully as CMS
  • Alfresco has been selected for EDRMS and team collaboration, implementation in progress

Why OSS?

  • Cllr Mark Wright outlined the council’s motivation for maximising the use of OSS, drawing comparisons with the work ongoing in Munich
  • Noted that Munich have found it difficult to work out cost advantages of using OSS
  • Main issue is where money is going i.e. how much ends up in the local economy
  • BCC desire to establish local business hub for innovative new software companies (local example of Bristol ‘techcity’)
  • BCC are very keen to see a higher proportion of money ending up in the local economy
  • Perspective from local software development and support providers
  • Local software development and support providers Nameless, Delib and LinuxIT shared their perspectives on the issues
  • Local software experience in Drupal highlighted
  • Many local businesses built on using OSS, selling services and products centred on OSS
  • Current central Government procurement process has become unclear and unfriendly to new OSS companies
  • Noted that there is a place for OSS evangelists but most enterprise orgs look to ability to deliver pragmatic solutions
  • There is significant opportunity for local businesses
  • Clear issue with SI’s willingness to offer OSS as their preferred solution
  • LinuxIT striving to put in place an ecosystem similar to Munich

General discussion

What is the issue?

  • Bristol’s interpretation was that our email system would need to be accredited in order to process data rated at Business Impact Level 3 (e.g. sensitive personal data, or RESTRICTED information from government)
  • This interpretation was based on advice from implementation partners and a reading of security guidance documents from CESG and Cabinet Office
  • BCC’s specific issue applies across the wider local Government landscape
  • CESG clarified the situation:
  • System boundary is key for accreditation purposes (BCC have signed GCSx CoCo) – it is a local SIRO decision on how to mitigate risk within the enterprise/system
  • Product assurance is needed at boundaries
  • Business software (proprietary or open source) products not accredited – risk mitigation looks at does product undergo patch updates, configuration management,how are sustainability and maintainability issues dealt with?
  • CESG offered to return once next steps defined
  • All agreed that policy has come across in a confused way – need to uncover the documents that may have led to confusion. BCC to pinpoint them for the group.
  • Open standards a key for future progress
  • Document standards and usability another area being worked on.  BCC experience and enthusiasm could be a great opportunity to work together.

Outcome

  1. Identified that there are no security/accreditation issues that prevent the evaluation and potential deployment of OSS products within the BCC enterprise boundary.
  2. Clarified at the meeting that it is not individual software products that are accredited, it is the entire solution that is accredited.
  3. Agreed that Cabinet Office and Bristol will continue to work closely together, both on OSS adoption and on development of creative and digital SME sector, including a follow up visit to Bristol in two months time

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