[Linux-aus] Benefits (was: M$ buys off SA)

Craig Turner craig at craigturner.id.au
Tue Jul 15 15:13:01 UTC 2003

>I'm wide-open to suggestions. I don't mind long emails, so bury me in
>benefits! Please!

Let me first say that I have fairly extensive experience in government
procurement, although never with software, I certainly understand how the
processes work.

Secondly I am a big fan of OSS (hey, I read this list!) but let me play the
devils advocate for a sec.

First a lot of the merits of OSS can be sucessfully argued to the tech
types, although there is a very real concern that OSS will threaten
entrenched 'power structures', ie all those Sys Admins who will blanch at
the thought of migrating in excess of 20'000 desktops to a new system. They
will quite convincingly argue to the decision makers the amount of work and
cost involved. Its not just training users, its also all the thousands of
Excel macros routinely used, the Word templates and macros, the custom
written apps that will work under Windows, etc. This is a massive job, and
sometimes decades of work is stored in these propriatry formats.

This leads me into the argument that I think would be most successful
within government, and also most difficult for the ISC to counter (in fact
I don't think the viably could)

The legislation should NOT mandate or even directly encourage OSS. Notice I
say 'directly'. The existing procurement polices should remain for the
actual product.

What government should be convinced to mandate (not recomend, no ifs, no
buts, MANDATE) is that document and information should all be stored in
openly documented formats.

This can easily be argued on the grounds of archival purposes, backwards
compatability, interoperability (anyone who works in my organisations IS
department would understand...we have hundreds of apps some of which hold
billions of records, all of which are interdependant, but often don't work
directly with each other, often due to propriatry or undocumented storage

This would also mean that regardless of what desktop system and office
software is used, there would be easy document interchange.

The reason departments mandate (as in the Victorian example) a particular
office product is for interoperability. There was a time in my organisation
when certain branchs were using word, and others were using Amipro, and it
was a nightmare.

It would be a lot harder for ISC et al to argue against this. Government
could say that they are not asking to see the code, all they want is to
ensure that THEY own their own data, and are free to use (or write) code
that can utilise that data.

Of course, this is a chink in the wall...either MS coughs up and openly
documents all their storage formats etc, and hence allows Star Office/Open
Office etc operate seamlessly with it, or they don't open up their formats,
and government looks to alternatives.

I understand that this doesn't quite achieve the goal of many within the
OSS movement(s), but I think this scores more in OSS's favour than the
ISC's, and how can the ISC argue against it?

It gives everybody more choice. Meanwhile, yes, the migration to OSS won't
be overnight, but it can happen a lot more stealthily.


More information about the linux-aus mailing list