Sun's McNealy Advises Obama Administration on Open Source

Jan 23, 2009

Sun cofounder Scott NcNealy has submitted a paper to the new U.S. administration about the cost savings and security benefits of Open Source software.

According to BBC News, the Obama administration has asked Sun chairman McNealy for a position statement justifying the administration's use of open source software. The BBC wasn't clear on who specifically asked him, but McNealy's spokesperson, on a query by the Linux community, acknowledged that McNealy had been meeting over the last year with members of the administration's new technology initiative, which apparently led to this request.

The former head of Sun advised the administration not to get "locked in" to a specific software vendor or company. He suggested that "the government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability."

Part of the reason for the government's request for proposal could be Obama's urgency to go "line by line" through the budget to cut unnecessary spending. And Obama had already promised during his campaign that he will insist on an open and transparent government. The administration's Technology Agenda says that it intends to "open up government to its citizens," and that with cutting-edge technologies.

McNealy's statements have clear support from the Open Source Initiative (OSI). According to OSI president (and Red Hat VP) Michael Tiemann, "It's an accident of history that proprietary standards became so entrenched so early and it's been a colossal expense for government." He estimates that the global loss due to proprietary software is "in excess of $1 trillion a year." Research firm Gartner Group tempers this slightly with analyst Mark Driver's assessment, "Do not expect to automatically save money with open source software, or OSS, or any technology without effective financial management."

Whether McNealy's appeal will have an immediate effect on the administration's technology decisions is yet to be seen. In any case, the White House Briefing Room has shown its best intentions by instituting a citizen blog with a mission: Communication, Transparency, Participation.

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  • Open Source Policy Recommendation for Healthcare

    We fully support Mr. McNealy's efforts in the promotion of open source technologies and hope there is a way for us to have our policy recommendation (see below) forwarded to Mr. McNealy's team for consideration.

    In the paper we presented at the 5th Annual eHealth Initiative Conference in Washington in Dec. 2008, we examine ways to accelerate the adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) through the building of regional health information networks (RHINs) using open source technologies. We look at the historical adoption of the World Wide Web and its associated ‘network effects’ that promoted the exponential growth of the Internet. We extrapolate the potential acceleration of the adoption of EMRs through an examination of Metcalfe’s Law. We point to research that demonstrates that the use of open source solutions will increase the adoption of regional health organization (RHIOs) by 20% by 2014 -- effectively increasing the capacity of RHIO coverage from 48% to 60% of the country – supporting a policy recommendation.


    Timothy Elwell
    VP, Misys Open Source Solutions
  • Links

    Thanks for the hint, they've been corrected.
  • Nealy article

    Nice article, but please fix the rather obviously broken link tags. Thanks.
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