Vendors urged to identify open standards

GSA Schedule 70 Update

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The General Services Administration is urging vendors who have products listed on the GSA Schedule 70 contract, which covers information technology, to identify the open standards their products support.

The new advice, added in May to the contract, is intended to make it easier for agency officials to spot products that will work most easily with ones they already use.

The GSA's move won applause from advocates of open standards, who say that such technologies are essential to the federal enterprise architecture effort.

In the past, “you’ve had a little bit of a clue," said Eliot Christian, manager of data and information systems at the U.S. Geological Survey. "They may say they support PDF documents" but offer no more details, he said. Buyers who consult a vendor’s product literature, likewise, may or may not find useful information.

“My general sense of the zeitgeist is that there is real enthusiasm in the community for embracing at least some open standards,” said Craig Miller, director of enterprise planning solutions at Blueprint Technologies, an architecture company. "My hope is that vendors will recognize that government is serious.”

Vendors, however, may find themselves conflicted, said Chip Mather, senior vice president at Acquisition Solutions.

“For most software platforms, [vendors] want to be interoperable with the products they want to be interoperable with, [and not with] their competitors," he said. "They’re not against us, they’re just for themselves.”

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