The General Services Administration's CIO outlines his agency's commitment to the cloud and open source technology -- and gets positive private-sector reviews.
General Services Administration CIO Sonny Hashmi. (FCW photo by Zaid Hamid)
The General Services Administration has melded an "open source first" policy with the federal government's cloud-first policy to develop a list of nine key principles the agency’s CIO says will guide its IT operations into the future.
GSA Chief Information Officer Sonny Hashmi said the nine principles should be incorporated into all of the agency's new IT builds or enhancements. "These principles will guide us as we continue to modernize our organization, processes, technologies and platforms at GSA," he wrote in an Aug. 1 blog post.
In addition to open source first and cloud first, the other principles are:
- Open shared data.
- Single seamless sign on.
- Digital services improvements.
- Record management.
- Effective vendor/partner engagement.
- Platform reuse first.
On platform reuse, Hashmi said that GSA has spent money over the past few years on common application and infrastructure platforms to allow rapid deployment, reuse of resources and cost-effective delivery of business services. The platforms reuse common components and technologies to cut IT costs and complexity by reducing the number of applications and tools its end users need to learn and access, he said.
Former Presidential Innovation Fellow Clay Johnson, a frequent critic of the federal procurement system, praised GSA's effort to become a touchstone for open source. "I think it’s a great thing. The GSA and the 18F team are doing remarkable things demonstrating to the rest of government how it should be done," he said.
Gunnar Hellekson, chief technology strategist at open source solutions provider Red Hat US Public Sector, concurred.
"This really is the GSA adopting industry best practices. Commercial companies evaluate open source as a matter of course. It’s just standard operating procedure. It’s wonderful to see the GSA join its commercial counterparts in taking advantage of everything open source has to offer," Hellekson said.
"One challenge GSA will face is having the talent and expertise to use all the open source available," he said. "Groups like 18F can help build capacity, but the GSA will also be relying on commercial open source vendors and system integrators that can take some of the sharp edges off these cutting-edge products."
While the GSA is known for being an early adopter of the government's cloud first initiative, its use of open source software is relatively new. "Simply put, any solution developed by taxpayer dollars should be in the taxpayer's domain," Hashmi said. "At GSA, we believe that all code we developed should be shared under an open license so others may benefit from it. In addition, we will give priority to using open source software as we design new solutions."
Hashmi's open source software pledge comes after the agency unveiled its 18F tech innovation program a few months ago, and marks a further solidification of the agency's efforts to be more flexible and innovative in the sometimes-stolid and prescribed world of federal procurement.
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