Like many of you, I awoke Monday to read that whitehouse.gov was now running on open source products including Durpal, Red Hat Linux, Apache web server, MySQL and Apache Solr.
It goes without saying that this news has generated lots of excitement. I am however more interested in what this news means to Open Source for America (OSFA), a group advocating open source adoption by the US Federal government. I recently spoke to OSFA spokesman and Red Hat executive, Tom Rabon and concluded:
“Overall, it seems there is plenty of work ahead for OSFA, especially in the area of getting decision-maker buy-in. Lucky for OSFA that its membership, and its members’ willingness to help OSFA reach its goal, continue to grow as well.”
In discussing the use of open source at whitehouse.gov, Tim O’Reilly, an advisor with OSFA, wrote:
“While open source is already widespread throughout the government, its adoption by the White House will almost certainly give permission for much wider uptake.”
I completely agree with Tim, as does OSFA’s John Scott who had the following to say via email:
“This is great news not only for the use of open source software but the validation of the open source development model. We look forward to collaborating with the Whitehouse as they interact and join with the wider open source community to potentially release source code back to society.”
I was previously unsure how OSFA would get its findings in front of government decision makers. I was expecting to hear that OSFA had plans to schedule briefings on open source best practices for government decision makers. I assumed that these briefings would (further?) open the door to open source vendors securing contracts with government agencies. The OSFA could and likely still wants to take this approach. However, it’s great to see open source vendors getting a stronger foothold in US government accounts by themselves. Or at least through federally approved systems integrators endorsing open source. As with any industry or market segment, some buyers are innovators and early adopters while others await the comfort of their peers. While individual open source vendors can win with early government adopters, the OSFA’s efforts will make it easier for the early and late majority government buyers to seriously consider open source. The OSFA has been handed a golden springboard to leap from as it reaches out to government decision makers. Individual open source vendors stand to benefit from the OSFA not just through new revenue potential, but also from the OSFA encouraging government agencies to contribute code to open source projects. This truly is a win-win relationship between the OSFA and individual open source vendors.