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Kit Plummer
Software Engineer :: Techitect :: Evangelist
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Worse than the fact that the DoD is just proving that it is not a “good citizen” is that the only thing they are interested in is getting cheaper software. It was humorous that RedHat showed up for Army General Justice’s spiel. It was equally humorous to pseudo-listen to sales pitches by Sun, Palamida, and a few other commercial organizations. Sun’s presence is understandable – they are attempting to pull out of their downward-spiral by surfing the Open Source strategy. Palamida is nothing but a parasite. In fact, it appears that their business case is to scare its potential customers into submission. The CEO had the guts to say that there were 250+ different copies of zlib found on an engineers laptops (referencing known bugs in older versions of the common compression library). The guy can’t even conceptualize the difference between source code distribution and the use of libraries. The saddest bit is that Palamida will probably be able to leech of the ignorance that still exists in the DoD community regarding the Open Source community. At least Black Duck Software is focusing on the viral license issue – and not using scare tactics to win business.

Fortunately, there were a few bright spots which will probably keep me wanting to go back. The well read Open Technology Development paper’s next edition should be hitting the streets soon, with a more practical focus, a howto version. There were my expected stories, a total of four – and one of those was mine. The other three: Ball Aerospace’s Opticks project, Delta3d from Alion, and IEM’s WebPuff project.

I believe there are a couple of issues stalling the relationship between the Open Source world and the DoD (beyond generic ignorance/arrogance). The first is a process for handling ITAR restrictions, or getting formal approval by the project customer to work a solution as Open Source. Obviously, there are quite a few details that fall out of this issue such as, that fact that the contractor actually owns the source code (copyright), regardless of the contract definitions for deliverables and that the contractor can actually do whatever they want with the code within security/classification constraints. The second, and most likely greater issue, is the fact that the acquisition framework is not incentivized to promote Open solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is really the contractors responsibility for pushing Open solutions. However, until the contract vehicles can seamlessly handle Open Technology Development is will too painful for vendors and contractors to be proactively work in an Open fashion. Lastly, it was very clear to me that it was the wrong audience. The event needs Program Managers, engineers, and “real” Open Source community involvement.

At lunch, one of the days, I happened to sit at a table with a few “older” gentleman from Booz Allen, who obviously weren’t “getting it”. One of the guys kept saying they weren’t technical so some of the content didn’t make any sense. I don’t think it was a case of them not being technical, but simply not prepared. They were definitely impressed with General Justice’s speaking ability and believed that he’s a champion. As soon as I disagreed it quickly went quiet. More on this in a subsequent post. Stay tuned, this rant isn’t done.

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