Web extra: Massachusetts turns to open source

Massachusetts’ Department of Public Health has hired Ciber, a systems integrator, to develop an open-source approach to a system that supports the federal Women, Infants and Children assistance program. The system will replace one built on Microsoft technology.

“They needed a solution that was independent of proprietary software,” said Ann Griffiths, vice president and director for the Northeast Region at Ciber’s State and Local Government Solutions Practice.

Most states deployed WIC systems on mainframes or IBM AS/400 servers. Since 1995, they migrated WIC systems to client/server and Web-based environments. In that realm, “our previous deployment...has been using Microsoft Windows,” Griffiths said.

With the Massachusetts system, Ciber is rebuilding a Microsoft .NET solution. Linux is one of several open-source components that the integrator employs. Those components include Eclipse, a development environment; Hibernate, an object/relational mapping tool; Bugzilla, a defect-tracking tool; the Apache Web server; Maven, a software project management tool; CVS, open-source version control software; and XDoclet, a code-generation engine.

Open-source tools may catch on for WIC systems in other states, Griffiths said.

“States don’t want to be dependent on one company’s technology platform,” she said. “They have to live with these systems for many years.”

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