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Sun's Pitch To Obama: Go Open!

Looks like we have our first hint about what attitude the new administration may have toward using open source. Scott McNealy of Sun's been tapped to write a paper for Obama and his cabinet about using open source to leverage cost savings.

Looks like we have our first hint about what attitude the new administration may have toward using open source. Scott McNealy of Sun's been tapped to write a paper for Obama and his cabinet about using open source to leverage cost savings.

The BBC carried the news earlier today, with McNealy stumping for the mandated use of open source in government. His claim is one that's been made before in many circles: "It's intuitively obvious open source is more cost effective and productive than proprietary software." I say, yes, but it's only intuitive up to a point; when you start adding support costs and consulting into the mix, it gets more complicated, and then you have to perform the same evaluations that you would with anything else.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of the Obama administration giving open source a fair shake. In some cases, especially when it comes to raw data, I'd put open source first in every respect. The much-vaunted electronic health records system that Obama wants to create has turned up in both proprietary and open implementations, and if it were my choice I'd rather go with the version that isn't tied to any one company, be it Microsoft or Google or even my employer. (The data formats used are themselves open and portable, but in that case why use them with an ad-supported service when we could have our pick of open implementations?)

When it comes to applications rather than data itself, though, everyone should get a fair shake based on the full gamut of their merits. Obviously, any proprietary program that doesn't have some convenient way to perform data interchange in an open format has a strike against it. And many types of open source applications have a strong natural advantage -- e.g., content management systems, for which you have your pick of outstanding open source choices.

I suspect I also got a little hung up on this particular quote: "Open source does not require you to pay a penny to Microsoft or IBM or Oracle or any proprietary vendor any money." Wait, I thought IBM was one of the bigger supporters of open source -- unless this is a cryptic way to refer to MySQL as the open source competition for SQL Server, DB2, and Oracle?


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