Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Mehdi Daoudi, Elizabeth White, Derek Weeks, Prince Kumar

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers

Open Source Cloud: Article

Open source making headway in Texas government

Is Microsoft losing the hearts & minds of Texans? Signs point to yes

(LinuxWorld) — In the war between proprietary and free/open-source software in state and local government over the past two years, Texas has established itself as ground zero. Texas Senate Bill 1579, for example, which seeks to ensure that free/open-source software is given a level playing field when competing with proprietary products in state agencies, was deemed important enough to recently get posted by Slashdot.

This week, I'm reporting live from the front lines of three related battles in that war. I'll recount a visit with Senator John Carona, the sponsor of SB 1579. You may be aware that Senator Carona sponsored the UCITA bill in Texas two years ago, and thereby hangs a tale.

But first, I'll update you on two other stories from Texas I've written about previously: the City of Austin's Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's (TDCJ) battle with Microsoft over the same sort of licensing issues.

The battle in Waller Creek

As you may recall, the City of Austin apparently lost its wrestling match with Microsoft's legal department late in 2001 when it "caved in" and signed up for Microsoft's most expensive licensing to avoid millions of dollars in fines for missing proofs of purchase (see "Why Austin, TX is considering a Microsoft enterprise license," in the Resources section below).

I've been expecting to hear news about the City of Austin's Microsoft deal, but what I've received is not what I expected. Several weeks ago, an investigative reporter from a local TV station inquired about that story, which would still be "news" in Austin due to the lack of media coverage. I was told the station planned to cover it during the recent "sweeps" period. If it did, I missed it.

Instead of an investigative report explaining why Austin pays twice for every copy of Microsoft Windows it gets, the news I have to report was slipped in over the transom one night. It came in the form of an e-mail that appeared to be from Jon Harris, a deputy CIO with the City of Austin. However, when I checked with Harris the next day, I learned he hadn't sent it. He did, however, confirm its contents:

Brownlee Bowmer, City of Austin Chief Information Officer, will be reassigned to Water & Wastewater CIO as of April 1, 2003. Pete Collins will be replacing Brownlee and Acting CIO for the city.

According to other anonymous sources, this is probably only the first move in a massive reorganization of the city's IS infrastructure. Whatever the true significance of the move, and whatever the final shape of the city's IS department in the future, I think it is clear that Bowmer is not being rewarded for his handling of the Microsoft debacle.

The battle in Huntsville

When last I visited with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), I spoke with Larry Todd of TDCJ's media relations department. Todd bravely asserted that TDCJ was not going to cave in to Microsoft and was fighting Microsoft's claims that TDCJ owed them millions of dollars. This is exactly the same sort of "marketing" that Microsoft had used successfully in Austin and elsewhere.

At the time, TDCJ had just installed a new division manager (Robert Bray) for its IT department, and my gloomy prognostication was that TDCJ might struggle for a while but then eventually cave in as well. This week, I am happy to report that is definitely not the case.

I spoke with Bray by phone recently and asked for an update on the situation. Bray said, "We have computers, many of which are six, seven or even eight years old. The state only requires us to keep records for five years. We couldn't show proof of ownership of all the operating systems and Microsoft Office licenses that we had."

Evidently, Redmond believes its licenses trump state law and demanded that TDCJ agree to an expensive licensing scheme or face millions of dollars in fines. TDCJ's own audit showed it was short about 2,000 licenses. The cost of those licenses was $283,000.

Bray said Microsoft "wanted us to go to seat-management, and that was in the millions of dollars. We simply didn't have the money." TDCJ sent Microsoft a check for $283,000 instead of signing a multi-million dollar contract and considers the situation resolved.

Whether Microsoft views it the same way is not known. "We've talked to their representatives, and they haven't said anything," Bray said. "Our lawyers sent letters to their lawyers, and their lawyers never responded."

Have Microsoft's strong-armed tactics in Texas actually ended up hurting their business here? That could be. Consider that pesky bill in the Senate; when I mentioned to Bray that Senator Carona's bill might give Linux and other free/open-source solutions more visibility in state government, he replied "we're certainly looking at it."

The battle in the Senate

I don't know much more about senators or politics than I've been able to pick up by watching Mister Sterling on Friday evenings. The NBC drama prepared me a little for the pace of activity in Senator Carona's office in the State Capitol building in Austin. Two gracious staffers provide a buffer between the Senator and the public. They were going to "eat in" for lunch so they wouldn't have to leave the Senator unguarded. I sat for a few minutes on a comfortable couch, waiting for my appointment and simply observing the flow of people in and out of the office. It's a busy place.

I only had a few minutes with the Senator, so I wasted no time once we had been introduced and I sat down in his office. My first question for the Senator was whether SB 1579 had political lines, drawing more support from one party or the other. "No, this bill has nothing to do with any type of partisanship," Carona said. "It's simply a good government bill aimed at saving the state dollars."

Senator John Carona The big question on my mind was how he came to sponsor this bill. From an earlier conversation with Paul Reyes, a member of the Senator's staff, I learned that a constituent in Dallas had suggested it. However, I also knew that Senator Carona had sponsored the UCITA bill two years ago. I asked him about that transition. He replied:

UCITA was quite controversial. It was an effort to bring together a variety of information sources on a common platform, so many would argue there was an inherent bias in UCITA legislation towards Microsoft.

I think that with the increased popularity of Linux, and with a better understanding of open-source technology, I think it is clear that we need to look at new avenues, particularly in the area of computer software and new technology. Even the largest companies across America are taking an entirely different view today than they did just a few short years ago.

So I think my change from being the sponsor of UCITA legislation two years ago to taking interest in open source today is probably the same evolution that you see occurring with individuals and companies large and small all across the country, as we try to find better, more-timely and efficient ways to do things using the technological advantages that are currently available.

When I asked what the bill's chances were in this legislature, he replied:

Well, it's really too early to say. I think that the chance of passage of a bill related to this topic is good. However, as with all legislation, the bill will go through an amendment process, and we will have to address concerns brought up by members of the committee that will first hear the legislation. Then ultimately the bill will be subjected to possible floor amendments as it makes its way through the senate and then the house.

I think that the bill is timely. The state finds itself in a revenue shortage and with the need to find every responsible means of savings that it can. I believe one such means to save considerable money for the State is through greater use of open source platforms and Linux technology.

For my final question, I asked the Senator if he saw the bill as being pro-Microsoft, anti-Microsoft or just good business. He said:

I think this is a good business bill. I am personally a supporter of Microsoft products, I use Microsoft products in my own business. I believe that Microsoft products are well-suited for state applications as well. But I believe that the total universe of software platforms means that we need to be looking at other options that can work together in harmony. I don't believe that it has to be either/or, I think it can be both. And I think that is what we have to remember here, that we can take the best of Microsoft, and the flexibility and best of Linux and open platforms, and merge the two. The winner in all of this is the taxpayer, because the cost to Texas becomes substantially lower while the technology is improved.

Changing tide

I think it is fair to say that the tide of the war in Texas is changing. Microsoft is no longer winning all the battles, and there is a rising level of sophistication and awareness of alternatives within state government. The trend towards more and more use of free/open-source software seems likely to continue. And why not? Like the Senator said, taxpayers are the real winners.

What's happening in your state and local government? Has the economy got them looking at Linux and other free-software products with new eyes? Let me know in the forum what's going on in your area.

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Robert Cohen, an economist and senior fellow at the Economic Strategy Institute, presented the findings of a series of six detailed case studies of how large corporations are implementing IoT. The session explored how IoT has improved their economic performance, had major impacts on business models and resulted in impressive ROIs. The companies covered span manufacturing and services firms. He also explored servicification, how manufacturing firms shift from se...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, will provide a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a...