A starring role for open source?

High-profile applications — not just unseen infrastructure — might be the next frontier.

It was a long time in coming, but the government’s use of open-source infrastructure software, such as the Linux operating system or the Apache Web server, is no longer a novelty. Indeed, open-source databases, middleware and network-monitoring tools have become an information technology staple in many agencies. Government officials who support open source now find they have a new decision to make:  whether to use one of the growing number of open-source packages that could handle higher-profile agency operations, such as business intelligence analysis, content management or customer relationship management (CRM), to name a few. Deborah Bryant, public-sector communities manager for Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab, said the applications sector has started to take off. “We’ve definitely seen an uptrend in that kind of adoption,” she said. Bryant said the switch to open-source generally occurs as an agency’s proprietary application reaches the end of its life or approaches the end of its license term. Agencies that embrace open-source applications often cite two primary reasons: lower upfront cost and a greater ability to customize. But first they must weigh support options, involve key stakeholders and examine licensing modes to see whether the move makes sense. Although open source was considered exotic a decade ago, the infrastructure variety has become commonplace.“Infrastructure is really becoming a no-brainer,” Bryant said. “There is such a reliable suite of software available that most agencies — particularly small to midsize agencies — feel foolish not to take a look.”As organizations move beyond that foundation, the first stop might be an open-source Web portal.The Court of Appeals of Georgia, having previously deployed Apache, MySQL and PHP as its Web site infrastructure, is now deploying an open-source portal. The organization’s adoption of the Liferay portal came through a circuitous route. Several years ago, the court began looking for portal software that would serve as the underpinning for electronic filing and docketing applications. John Ruggeri, the court’s director of technical services, said some of the commercial portal products he examined cost $100,000 before customization. Court officials originally chose Novell’s exteNd platform as a less expensive solution. But they eventually backed away from that product, amid concerns that Novell would discontinue support. Now, Liferay plays the portal role and the custom e-filing and docketing applications are slated for completion by the end of 2008. Open source’s cost advantage is among the key selling points of the technology, Ruggeri said. “We are always looking for inexpensive methods to do the things we think are worthwhile,” Ruggeri said.The Georgia Supreme Court also plans to use Liferay and the accompanying applications but will run separate instances of the software. Bryan Cheung, chief executive officer at Liferay, described portals as a transitional zone between infrastructure and user applications. A portal serves as an integration platform that connects to older systems but also provides a launch pad for applications.One of those applications is content management. The Small Business Administration last year opted for open-source content management software, installing Alfresco. Nancy Sternberg, Business Gateway program manager at SBA, said that agency was among the first federal agencies to deploy Alfresco. Sternberg said the agency turned to open source when the program faced significant budget cuts and needed a more flexible method for publishing content to its site. An analysis of open source determined that the technology could meet Business Gateway&rs quo;s content management needs, Sternberg said. And from a financial perspective, Alfresco lets SBA trim its content management cost by more than 50 percent compared with the proprietary software solution the agency had been using. Alfresco users pay no upfront licensing fee, but enterprise customers often purchase a subscription that provides support and maintenance. Sternberg said SBA’s subscription to Alfresco costs about $64,000 a year, noting that the previous licensing cost for a commercial proprietary product was approximately $150,000 a year. The Georgia courts also plan to use Alfresco in conjunction with their e-filing and docketing systems and Liferay portal.Agencies have also started snapping up open-source business intelligence software. Lance Walter, vice president of marketing at Pentaho, pointed to increased government interest in the company’s open-source BI solution. The company has seen such an increase in demand that earlier this year, it established a dedicated account management unit for the federal market, Walter said. Customers in that sector include the Naval Air Systems Command, which uses Pentaho to analyze flight recorder data.  However, results are mixed for two core business applications: CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Bryant cited the Oregon Department of Human Services’ installation of SugarCRM, an open-source solution. But other industry executives say the U.S. public sector trails counterparts in other countries in taking on those mainstay enterprise applications.Stormy Peters, director of community and partner programs at OpenLogic, said countries in Europe, Africa and Asia “really see open source as something the government should promote.” OpenLogic provides enterprise open-source solutions.The hesitancy seen in some U.S. government entities often stems from support concerns. Agencies accustomed to proprietary software vendors’ support programs question where they will get help with technical issues and custom development in the open-source world. Yet some open-source observers believe those fears are not as prominent now as they were a few years ago.“We have a subscription to Alfresco and that makes sure we have greater access to technical support,” SBA’s Sternberg said.In addition, SBA has an IT contractor that supports its Alfresco development, Sternberg noted. The contractor works with Alfresco to resolve problems and raise issues that might need to be addressed in subsequent versions of the software. Newport News, Va., also uses a combination of support sources, including community support. The city runs the Plone open-source content management system, which resides on an open-source Web application server called Zope.“We make use of mail servers and Internet Relay Chat rooms used by Plone users and developers, and we have a contract with a company that specializes in Plone products and support that provides a set number of hours of support per month as needed,” said Sam Allgood, Open eGov senior Web developer for Newport News.However, support isn’t the only barrier to the adoption of open source. Allgood said adopting an open-source application requires more involvement from users than an open-source operating system, utility or middleware solution requires. However, that involvement is no more extensive than what a commercial application would require, he added.In general, agencies should start conversations with the key stakeholders and be willing to address their concerns. Steinberg said Business Gateway sought out SBA’s enterprise architecture, security and infrastructure support teams. “You need to have communication between all parties that are going to be involved,” she said. 
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.