Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Open Sauce...

I’d planned to spend yesterday and today at the CMA Conference, held at The Congress Centre in Great Russell Street but, for a variety of reasons, didn’t get there until today’s morning coffee break.

There was some work to do on weightings and tolerances for the Microsoft software procurement and in reviewing bids for the GC Benefits Realisation fund, besides which my correspondence backlog had gone over a week again.

Geoff, Richard and I met with Newham’s Head of Procurement to discuss and agree our procurement approach for the NTC network commercialisation. We decided upon a negotiated competition, in preparation for which we’ll develop our market analysis, finalise technical options and advertise for proposals to meet desired outcomes based on sale of lease of network.

At one point yesterday, I found myself talking on the ‘phone to Adrian, who was in a storage room at Socitm’s Northampton offices, surrounded by mounds of reports, minutes and other documentation dating back, probably, to the formation of the Society. Clearly, another project looms; we’ll need to sort-out retention policies and Electronic Document Records management for the Society, but it also occurred to us that we need an Archivist to document Socitm’s history, before disposing of everything.

After having popped-in to a Newham colleague’s Farewell drinks do in Stratford, I went on to The Chemistry Club, at Sartoria. Francis Maude was the speaker.

Today (Wednesday) morning, the oft-postponed GC Benefits Realisation Fund Assessment Teleconference was held. The IDeA did an excellent job in reviewing and documenting the bids, of which there were 193, for our consideration. Six were agreed, unaltered, for funding, and a further four were agreed, but at less than was applied for. It was agreed that a further twelve required further information & evaluation. Forty-six of the bids were for the Libra project (for youth offending – “topped and tailed” for different YOTs). It was also agreed the IDeA should discuss some funding, probably of a pilot.

The Wednesday morning CMA Conference networking break was followed by a session entitled “Real Strategies for “Hyper Connectivity”. I felt like I’d entered a time-warp. It seemed to me that speakers wanted to hold back the tide; there was a reluctance to recognise that convergence is here; the words said “sweat your assets”, but I was pretty sure they meant “help us to continue to milk our sunk investments, rather than deploying the infrastructure you really need”; technical solutions to managing limited bandwidth to stop users gobbling it for Internet radio were advised, rather than recognising the fundamental cultural and management shift required for anytime, anywhere working enabled by Unified Communications.

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, spoke a good deal of sense, and clearly knew his subject. I liked his analogy of the Internet as the digital equivalent of previous trade routes. He did, however, cause some consternation by saying, as part of the answer to a question, that “Nortel had withdrawn as a first tier 2012 sponsor”. After lunch and, I imagine, some feverish checking, it was clarified that this most certainly was not the case!

The session following lunch – “The future… moves changes and opportunities” – was as refreshing as the one before lunch was depressing. Mark Blowers, from Butler Group, did a commendably succinct introduction to the session, comparing our development of network infrastructure to the Winchester Building.

Bob Falconer, CEO of Gamma Telecom, talked about systemic problems in the industry – over-promising, under-delivering, costs of change, back-loaded costs etc, and suggested an alternative approach to procurement, and his company’s white label service.

Stuart Hill, Vice President and Director of BT’s London 2012 delivery programme, gave a truly inspiring presentation about BT’s approach, as the Tier One Telecoms Sponsor. “Reliability ahead of heroes”, “Treat every amber as red”.

Kevin Russell, CEO of “3” Mobile highlighted some of the absurdities in mobile data regulation and pricing, and illustrated the major daily evening peak in mobile data traffic that’s apparently down to home use.

You may have seen today’s announcement of new Government Policy on Open Source software. A number of journalists have been enquiring after my views!

Well, I’ve had a couple of long days so these aren’t fully thought-through, but my more-or-less “off the cuff” reactions are:
  • Open Standards are definitely required.

  • I don’t like the term “Open Source”. It’s misleading; what many people mean is “anything but Microsoft”; few businesses actually use open source directly – they buy software derived from open source that has been commercially packaged and sold with support, which, in practice, is little different to licensed software.

  • Nevertheless, competition is great for keeping suppliers focussed on delivering customer value, and “Open Source” has certainly played its part.

  • All the same, software is only one part of the Total Cost of Ownership equation; don’t consider it in isolation, but as part of the full TCO and lifecycle costs.

  • “Open Source” software development, in my experience, lags proprietary development by several years. I don’t think we could achieve the anytime, anywhere fixed and mobile infrastructure with tele-presence we require, now, for flexible and new ways of working using only Open Source.

  • I agree with reuse, and it’s a very significant factor in the Microsoft Public Sector software licensing project I’m involved in (and not allowed to talk about).

  • If it works for you – fine. I wouldn’t rule-out so-called “Open Source”; Newham has used it for some applications since the time it did its deal with Microsoft (probably the first UK public sector procurement of Microsoft as a supplier) and continues to do so.


ShemTV said...

OH God.. I used to sell software to schools, unis and gov organisations. microsoft and other software organisations purposfully lobby gov to keep there "swiss cheese software" in the framework. Innovation and freedom of licencing fees, increased security are the benifits that gov organisations can gain using open source software. Your a fool and a uneducated one if you believe PAID FOR SOFTWARE IS BETTER THAN OPEN SOURCE.

i encountered many schools turning to open source and opening there eyes. Finally the gov is seeing some light...

Dont close the blinds

Richard Steel said...

Hi, Shem.

What specification are you benchmarking against?

Kind regards,

Anonymous said...

You do know that your blog is being served by a Linux server running a modified version of Apache Web Server (both Open Source technologies)?

If you believe that Open Source is so far behind Proprietary software why are you not hosting your blog on a service running IIS and Windows Server?

Oh and if you want some security benchmarks I'd start with Secunia - WindowsXP and Secunia - Red Hat 9

And I leave you with a story someone once told me, it may not have actually happened but the moral is still there none the less.

There was an IT Security conference and the speaker said he envisioned a day when the US President had a button that turned off all the (Windows) PCs in China thus crippling China. Someone in the audience stood up and asked "What about the buttons that turn off all the PCs in Europe". The audience laughed, somewhat nervously.

At least with Open Source systems we can check the code to make sure there are no such backdoors in the system. Security should actually matter. It's scary that it is often ignored.

Anonymous said...

Saw the computer weekly article and it was a great laugh, thanks.

Im not sure what open source software you are using but Im on a Win box right now using Firefox to surf and playing a concert video in VLC. Best of category with updates and fixes coming quickly.
Next to it, i have the rest of our work setup which is basically LAMP, so once again, thanks for making us laugh out loud in our tech department today.
Is all open source good? No.
But it does allow our developers and engineers to modify it to fit our need and those of our customers.

I could run a whole list of open source products to show that they are better than their proprietary counterparts but you dont care about technology, just rhetoric.

We on the other hand have proprietary software and GPLed software in our environment and needless to say our staff enjoys more the ones you can modify.

In my home country of Brazil, we are in the middle of a program which will see the creation of computer labs (mainly server/thin clients) to serve our country's 50 millions students with a variety of localized Linux distros and the KDE desktop so I know very well the costs of technology and education.

I understand you not going all out in a field that you dont understand but you couldnt find even one open source program that suits your needs out of the dozens if not hundreds you are probably using?
Highly doubtful.

penguiniator said...

"I don’t like the term “Open Source”. It’s misleading; what many people mean is “anything but Microsoft”; few businesses actually use open source directly – they buy software derived from open source that has been commercially packaged and sold with support, which, in practice, is little different to licensed software."

So, Open Source is unlicensed? And if it is purchased, it is no longer Open Source, or at least is no longer Open Source that is being used directly? And since Apple software is not Microsoft, that's Open Source, too?

Most people making these kinds of gross misstatements could be excused for their ignorance. Let's assume for the moment that you are misinformed.

Proprietary software vendors typically rent the use of their software and limit its use to a specific number of users and machines, with no rights to view or change the source code. Competing proprietary developers must continually reinvent the wheel.

The way proprietary software is marketed encourages the customer to think of the software like a tangible good, when it is not. This is grossly misleading. Contracts for open source software are more honest, in that they more directly address what is really covered by contract fees, namely service and support, without trying to squeeze the customer through restrictive licensing terms.

Open Source licenses grant use of the software for an unlimited term, with no restrictions on viewing or changing the source code or redistributing the software, and without any limits on how many people may use it or on how many machines it may be installed. And the original wheel is freely available to be improved upon, or scrapped if it proves inferior. Open Source developers at least have that choice. Proprietary developers have to steal other company's wheels to do the same.

If what you say about proprietary development being superior is true, proprietary developers would have beaten Open Source developers to the punch in inventing the Internet, the World Wide Web, SMTP email, FTP, etc. But they didn't. Assuming that was all a fluke, I'd say Open Source developers have been on a very long string of incredible luck.

As I said, most people making these kinds of gross misstatements could be excused for their ignorance. But your position, "President of the Society of IT Management", rules that out. No, more likely you are being slyly deceptive or misleading by means of a pretense of ignorance. In a word--disingenuous.

Richard Steel said...

Hi, Anonymous (1)

Yes - I do know. Newham also uses Apache, and I did say in my Blog entry that we use some "Open Source".

The benchmarks that I think are required are of the overall infrastucture; that's the level at which the CIO neess to work to ensure the best overall capabilities, efficiency and, of course, security.

Security is vitally important - especially given our anytime, anywhere work-styles in the modern world. Hence we operate a fully converged infrastructure with unified communications and tele-presence across the piece, supported by federated ID management and authentication enabling role-based access,and requirements like resource accounting.

Our discussion would be helped if you'd say who you are, who you represent and what your role is - otherwise we're just going to be comparing apples & pears.


Richard Steel said...

Hi, Anonymous (2).

Well a good laugh certainly brightens-up the day, doesn't it?

I've long been an admirer of some of the really innovative work being done in Brazil. I also accept that organisations that work with open source code to develop their own systems get the most from it - but, rightly or wrongly, that's not the way most organisations work.

Are you from a University? Please contact me directly; I'd love to compare notes.


Richard Steel said...

Hi, Penguinator (interesting name!)

I did say that "what many (not all) people mean is 'anything but Microsoft'", which implies, I think, that I do understand that isn't true.

I understand, too, about open source licensing, but look what happens when software derived from open source is packaged Terms of Use

But, really, why shouldn't people benefit from their innovation and intellectual property?

I'm certainly not saying proprietary development is superior - but that software based on "open source" tends to lag because, I imagine, there isn't the same level of investment.


The Beez' said...

You fail to substantiate your claims without any figures and as usual my mates jump right on it to debunk the statements you made.

For instance, most TCOs include conversion and reeducating/restaffing. However, who made these bad decisions in the first place and: if you were an OpenSource shop how much would it cost to convert to an MS shop?

We even have to include lost time and productivity. E.g. I use LyX and GraphViz for making documents and diagrams. I can dump the code required from a database and let GraphViz create the graph. LyX lets me write my document and does all the formatting for me. How much time is lost with Word because one has to fiddle the layout.

Finally, how much productivity is lost because bad CIO buy commercial silo after silo and create a whole myriad of Excel exports, edits and recreation instead of using interconnectable DBs?

Commercial software is closed for commercial reasons. That means you can export but not tap into repositories. Open Source is open. If you want to access the contents directly for either input or output you can.

Note that a FOSS platform is less vulnerable to malware (no, not because it is a lesser target - compare IIS attacks vs. Apache attacks, IE attacks vs Firefox attacks).

FOSS software is always less bugridden - check the statistics of automated bugfind companies.

So, either add some figures to your claims (perferably not from GetTheFacts) or stop trolling. It's not respectable behavior of a pulic servant.

Anonymous said...

Curious. How do you factor into your "total cost of ownership" the significant risk that Microsoft may dump the products you rely on at any time?

Don't think this is a problem? Why don't you ask the people who have bet their own companies on Microsoft's ESP (and FlightSim) platforms, which have been unceremoniously killed.

I also find it highly amusing that a guy who is heavily invested in promoting Microsoft products would claim that Open Source is all about "anything but Microsoft". The same could easily be said about you, that you are all about "anything but open source". Clearly that is not true, but it has the same amount of validity as your own claim.

Anonymous said...

If you read the Microsoft's EULA you will see that MS doesn't give you any guarantee for damages caused by software bugs.

You pay for a stupid license that doesn't any guarantee and doesn't permit you what you are buying. And it restricts your rights to use the license on more than one computer.

At least commercial free software sell you the service of support and doesn't restrict your rights. Free software is not hypocrite