Bringing Open Source to Government Agencies

by   |   January 15, 2016 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Pierre Fricke, VP Product Marketing, EnterpriseDB

Pierre Fricke, VP Product Marketing, EnterpriseDB

Although the American economy has stabilized, Capitol Hill is still closely examining the spending and budgets of government agencies with an eye toward program cuts wherever possible. With this in mind, government CIOs are always on the lookout for ways to centralize and optimize their existing technology to fit into new budget requirements, and are looking to open source to enhance innovation while reducing costs. In fact, open-source technologies have become a high priority for government agencies as they look to rein in spending while delivering high performing, secure, flexible, and scalable solutions for government IT groups. 

Databases in Government 

When examining infrastructure for updates, government CIOs should first evaluate their current database architecture for improvement opportunities. Databases often account for the largest portion of financial spend; they also represent a huge opportunity for leveraging open-source technology to reduce costs.

According to an April 2015 report from Gartner, the use of open-source databases will soon surpass legacy solutions, noting: “By 2018, more than 70 percent of new in-house applications will be developed on an OSDBMS, and 50 percent of existing commercial RDBMS instances will have been converted or will be in process.”

Security and Performance 

Data security always has been and will continue to be a major priority for government entities, given the sensitive and critical nature of the information they collect. This is especially true in light of the fact that the cost of data breaches reached $3.8 billion in 2015, according to a recent study.

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Some IT departments may be skeptical of the security capabilities of open-source solutions. But the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems has shown that open-source database solutions are being used successfully in mission critical applications in a large number of organizations. In addition, mature open-source solutions today implement the same (or better) security capabilities as traditional infrastructures. This includes SQL injection prevention, tools for replication and failover, server side code protections, row-level security, and enhanced auditing features, just to name a few. Furthermore, as open-source technology becomes more widely accepted across the public sector – intelligence, civilian, and defense agencies across the federal government already have adopted open source – database solutions are also growing with specific government mandates, regulations, and requirements.

To provide additional perspective on performance, in the April 2015 report, Gartner noted that open-source database solutions have matured significantly from 2009 to 2015; they now match proprietary vendors in key areas including performance, security, and manageability. OSDBMS have the functionality and stability to support mission-critical applications, as well as the tools that database administrators need to manage large deployments. 

Reduced Costs and Flexibility 

Open-source solutions offer greater flexibility in pricing models. In some cases, vendors price open-source database offerings based on a subscription model; this eliminates the licensing fees common to large proprietary systems.

An important difference in a subscription is that it qualifies as an operating expense versus a capital expenditure, making budgeting for the database a less complex process. And because open-source solutions begin at a much lower price point, they cost up to 80 percent to 90 percent less than traditional solutions. This enables agencies to reallocate the resources they would otherwise spend on traditional databases to new, innovative solutions that address strategic and emerging organizational goals. 

Deployment Flexibility 

Government IT systems need to be flexible and, sometimes, mobile. In addition to being housed in a permanent data center facility, databases support applications that may be deployed in the cloud, on tanks, Humvees, temporary office spaces, aircraft, ships, and underground sites, among other potential unorthodox locations. As a result, deployment needs to be quick and simple, and the physical equipment must be light and easily transportable. Some open-source DBMS solutions, such as Postgres, utilize lower levels of memory and RAM, take up less server space, and provide an ideal option for these scenarios, while installation of traditional systems can oftentimes be a Herculean effort and take up a huge amount of disk space.

 Today’s Government Open-source Efforts 

Open source increasingly is being accepted as the de facto standard within federal government agencies. For example, the October 2009 Department of Defense memorandum requested that federal agencies evaluate and implement these solutions whenever possible. Since that memorandum, the Federal Aviation Administration and a significant number of agencies within the Department of Defense, including the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the Defense Information Systems Agency have implemented open source.

The interest to drive large acceptance of open-source technology is so great, in fact, that the sole mission of the newly formed Coalition for Enterprise Open Source Software for Government (CEOSSG) is to increase federal agency awareness of enterprise open-source products and the need for greater adoption of OSS across the federal sector. The CEOSSG is a non-profit member organization comprising top-tier open-source vendors and affiliated groups that advocate for government agencies to adopt enterprise open-source software as an alternative to the free versions of open-source solutions. Through participation in the CEOSSG, members will educate Congress and the Obama administration about the value of enterprise open-source products in federal agencies.

Although government agencies are well aware of the innovative technology surrounding them in the private sector, it can be time-consuming to implement the same programs in a public environment. Open-source technologies have long been recognized for the reduced costs associated with achieving the same innovation, performance, and security as commercial solutions, but with the 2009 DoD memorandum and the formation of technologically-savvy member organizations, the wheels have been set in motion to implement the most compelling software across government agencies.

Pierre Fricke is Vice President of Product Marketing at EnterpriseDB. Fricke has a long history in open-source software. He spent 10 years as director of product marketing for JBoss Middleware. He had joined JBoss Inc. just over a year before its acquisition by Red Hat in 2006 and stayed on until he joined EDB. He first became involved in open-source software in 1998 during his 17 years at IBM. Fricke played a critical role in establishing IBM’s Linux and open-source strategy as one of seven team leaders whose contributions are still utilized today. He also spent five years as an industry analyst with an emphasis on Java and Microsoft application development and integration software.


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