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FCW : January 2014
DrillDown How to choose an open-source vendor President Barack Obama's Executive Order on Improving Critical Infra- structure Cybersecurity and his Pres- idential Policy Directive on Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience are two of the rst of cial acknowl- edgments of the inextricable link between physical and cybersecurity. Government agency adoption of open source in many ways mirrors the path followed by many in-demand technologies in the public sector. Early on, agencies evaluate the bene ts and drawbacks of the emerging technol- ogy --- whether it is open source, big data, cloud computing, mobility, etc. --- relative to the traditional, legacy alternative. Then, as more agencies experience the tangible bene ts of the technology and demand increases, the market follows, and suddenly agen- cies are facing not one or two vendor options but dozens. After several years of being used in a broad range of situations, open source nds itself at this in ection point. The most familiar open-source platforms for government agencies include Red Hat Linux (operating sys- tem), Red Hat JBoss (application plat- form), Oracle MySQL (database) and, of course, Apache HTTP Server, the most successful open-source platform deployed in the public sector today. But the open-source community has expanded signi cantly beyond those leading platforms and technologies, and as agencies move forward with open-source projects and evaluate new solutions, there are several key factors to consider. 1. The credibility of the open-source stack The barrier to entry for making code freely available and "open" on the Web for public consumption is not a formidable one. For that reason, it is critical for agencies to ensure that the open-source stack they are evalu- ating comes from a credible source. Apache, for example, does not allow just anyone to put code out there. An Apache project must be reviewed, incubated and evaluated by the com- munity to earn promotion to a top- level project. However, many other open-source communities accept almost everything in order to build their numbers. There- fore, government agencies must evalu- ate the standards and credibility of an open-source stack to ensure that it is committed to the highest level of quality for projects. 2. The vendor's commitment to support, services and innovation Good open-source vendors recognize the importance of providing support and services and the need to deliver value-added software capabilities on top of the open-source stack. Those differentiating capabilities contrib- ute to a better overall product for the Open-source solutions are at a key in ection point. That means huge opportunities for agencies, but also some important concerns. BY BRIAN PAGET " " Most successful open-source projects on the Web today are spearheaded by vendors that realize the future does not reside with proprietary software. 30 January 2014 FCW.COM