L.A. investigates open source to cut costs

City officials in Los Angeles are considering switching to an open-source platform for their computer systems to potentially save millions of dollars that could be redirected to other services.

Three council members — Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greul and Jack Weiss — introduced a motion last week asking the city's Information Technology Agency to provide an initial report on potential savings in 30 days and a transition plan in 90 days. Although city officials already use some open-source software, they spent $5.8 million on proprietary software licenses for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004.

With open-source programs, users can read, modify and redistribute the source code for free. The most widely known example is the Linux operating system, although some vendors charge for their Linux distributions.

Garcetti's spokesman, Josh Kamensky, said city officials are aware of transition costs. But the issue is worth investigating, he added.

"This is something local, state and federal governments around the world are doing and there's a reason for it," he said. "It pretty much stands to reason that if support and the software are available for free, that are going to be some cost savings."

For example, Kamensky said city officials could save $5.2 million by switching to OpenOffice, an open-source desktop computer suite that includes word processor and spreadsheet programs, rather than purchasing a Microsoft Office product at $200 per license for 26,000 desktops. The savings would go to a special fund to hire more employees for the police department, a major focus for city officials right now, he added.

Gordon Haff, a senior analyst and IT adviser at Illuminata, said business value should be the main concern in transitioning to an open-source environment.

"The decision-making for the state or local or federal government could be essentially the same as for a corporation," Haff said. "Does it save money when all the costs [are] taken into account? And that includes conversion costs, retraining costs, perhaps costs of getting and writing or converting software that doesn't run on an open-source platform."

Thom Rubel, vice president of government strategies at META Group, said one benefit of open source is that it forces government officials to inventory, map and review their IT systems, platforms and applications. But he said they must consider the business value before making a

decision.

"The jury's out, but I think it has a lot of potential," Rubel said. "It's a movement that isn't going to go away soon."

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group