David A. Wheeler's Blog

Tue, 19 Jun 2007

“DoD Software Tech News” posts open source software issue

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)’s software technology magazine “DoD Software Tech News” has posted a whole issue devoted to free-libre / open source software (FLOSS). If you’re trying to get FLOSS seriously considered by acquisition or management people, this may be what you need. This issue includes essays by David A. Wheeler (that’s me!), Terry Bollinger, John M. Weathersby, Mark Lucas (on Geospatial FLOSS), Peter Gallagher, Matt Asay (Alfresco), and Andrew Gordon. Free registration required. My essay is basically a text version of my March 2007 presentation on Free-libre / Open Source Software (FLOSS); it includes snippets from my papers that give statistics about FLOSS, explain how to evaluate FLOSS, discuss FLOSS and security, and explain why most FLOSS is commercial software. There’s even a hint of my essay Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else, since I note the widespread use of the GPL.

After I submitted my article, but before it got published, the Department of the Navy CIO Robert J. Carey signed a June 5, 2007 memorandum titled “Department of the Navy Open Source Software Guidance” which notes that FLOSS needs to be considered a commercial item when it meets the U.S. government’s standard definition of a commercial item (and nearly all extant FLOSS meets that definition). That is the same basic point that I raised in my presentation. It feels nice to have made a key statement, and then find that the U.S. Navy officially confirms it. As noted in Linux.com, that means that extant FLOSS software must be considered when the U.S. government acquires software, the same way as other commercial software is considered (i.e., it must be considered before starting a new project to write their own).

If you have a true PHB, I can’t help you. But many managers just need some honest information, and this is at least one way to get it to them.

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