In an earlier post, I talked about the radio show Countdown hosted by Francis Rose on WFED at 2pm Friday’s. The deal was that Francis would have three people select their top Government-related stories of the week and present them in sort of a Casey Kasem 3-2-1 countdown.
I was on January 15th, you can listen to the entire show that week at http://www.wfed.com/index.php?nid=17&sid=1865007.
In this post, I wanted to briefly touch on the second of the two articles I discussed, DISA expands access to ProjectForge cloud environment, http://gcn.com/articles/2010/01/13/disa-projectforge-collaboration.aspx.
The article illustrates the greater comfort level that Government has with using open-source software produced by non-Governmental organizations. While not explicitly mentioned, this increased involvement is leading to open-source development going the other direction; being produced by Government and then placed into the greater community.
Just to make sure that everyone is on the same page, I should explain a few terms.
DISA, which stands for Defense Information Systems Agency, provides an increasingly large part of the Information Technology infrastructure for the Department of Defense; http://www.disa.mil/.
As I have mentioned in a number of venues before, I believe there needs to be a Civilian version of DISA to serve a similar purpose. The most logical candidate to me for this is GSA, though historically GSA has done a better job of managing contracts than managing the implementation of contracts. Regardless, as the Government increasingly understands the value of centralizing the provisioning of infrastructure, allowing the Program staff to focus on their program mission, DISA has increased its responsibilities; not without growing pains but that is a different blog entry.
The article talks about DISA expanding its ProjectForge effort associated with Cloud Computing, this effort is part of its forge.mil program. The word ‘forge’ comes from the original efforts to develop Open-source software.
Open-source software typically is created by crowd sourcing, which is with the participation of many contributors often in a fairly loosely coupled fashion. The process and the resulting source code is presented transparently. Companies typically make money around open-source efforts by selling training, consulting, and/or support contracts of one sort or another. For more details, see http://opensource.org/.
There has been a continuing argument within Government over the proper place for open-source software. Some people are uncomfortable with the thought that the software has no single creator or owner. Open-source advocates would argue that the gains achieved by making the source code completely visible are significant. Security experts tell me that security that is premised largely on secrecy ultimately fails. In the same way, the power of exposure, at least in theory, reduces the possibility of bugs and/or trapdoors which cause security vulnerabilities in a software application.
Fundamentally this discussion represents the much broader issue of the real-world value or power of crowd sourcing versus classical hierarchically produced results. I plan to talk more about this in later blog entries a bit more.
Returning to the article I presented, it is clear that the argument over Government use of open-source is being largely decided in favor of use. Here we have one of the largest providers of IT in the Federal Government with an active open-source effort both in concept and execution within the Federal Government.
The article also illustrates one of the under-reported stories; that of Government produced open-source software. It is increasingly common that the Government makes use of privately produced open-source software. But there are an increasing number of situations where the Government is creating open-source software and either making it available to a larger community for usage or even setting up relationships with non-Governmental organizations to manage the resulting open-source community.