Open Sores

February 18, 2012

Whilst I have been an advocate of Open Source for many years (this is WordPress, isn’t it?), it has always been a case of banging one’s head against a brick wall in many cases. My Colleague David Henderson recently pointed me to GovFresh as a source of material to use when attempting to convert the so far unconverted, and the material on their whether about Joomla, Drupal or WordPress is really useful.

Whilst Liam Maxwell and the UK government make the right noises and visit some of the right places, beta.gov.uk itself is more of a mongrel, coded in Ruby with a load of Openish add ons – see Colophon for the GOV.UK beta. For good examples of the public sector use of Open Source in the UK one needs to examine Bristol City, Oxfordshire and the increasing number of others employing the likes of Drupal or Joomla.

In its own way this move away from commercial or hand-tooled CMS may cause a few problems in the private sector web businesses that have been slow to recognise that open source is the current trend, but that’s business isn’t it. The next trick will be getting those developing sites using open source to share the development pain and hosting.

My own council has never hosted its own website, I made sure of that. The next trick will be transferring the rest of the web applications that now feed into it into the ‘cloud’. After that it will be getting those application providers to develop their systems in Open Source and put them into the ‘cloud’ as well. Too many applications are reliant upon incredibly expensive Oracle, SQL or other licensing schemes that need to be switching to ‘software as a service’.

Anyway, GovFresh has lots of material to encourage the use of Open Source amongst even the most hardened advocates of paying through the nose, rather than paying by the seat.


Open source cloud

October 12, 2011

I’ve written quite a few posts regarding the value of both ‘cloud’ and ‘open source’ computing in government service. However, a recent comment I saw elsewhere suggested that ‘cloud’ computing retained many of the issues of ‘proprietary’ software, and that whilst ‘open source’ should be welcomed, ‘cloud’ shouldn’t.

With the UK central government, being keen to save money whenever it can, it has made many supportive noises about ‘open source’, but there have been few examples of major use, although a recent piece in UKauthority reported that Bristol City Council had been informed that there were no security or accreditation issues with regards to such software, particularly for email. This is good news since having employed an excellent Linux-based email server at my own authority until the advent of Government Connect, at which point it had to be replaced by a proprietary one, I am keen that options remain. Bristol City are also famed for having employed Drupal as their web content management system, a route I would also like to follow.

I suspect this is where the definition of ‘cloud’ comes into play – does it become ‘software as a service’ (SaaS), where there is some contractual lock in or is it purely a method of hosting applications in a secure manner that takes the IT manager away from running their own data centre and network? I believe it can be both, and more – the contractual issues are there to satisfy both supplier and customer about their mutual obligations that may be more or less limiting, whilst in another approach it may be somewhere to store one’s data and applications in a secure and supported manner, without the additional cost of the ‘real estate’.

Am I miles off, or is it really a matter of contract?