I am due to meet up soon with an open source enterprise content management (ECM) company called Alfresco whose success in the US may have lessons for us in the UK defence sector. The company’s records management module is apparently the first open source software to pass the rigorous U.S. Department of Defense 5015.02 rating.
Cutting through the PR with a fairly heavy palette knife, this is clearly not the first open source software to be used by the US defense authorities. Multifarious manifestations of Java and many other open source variants have, allegedly, been used by the NSA (No Such Agency) and many other bastions of defence for some years now.
That said, the exacting standards needed to meet the governance, retention and compliance strategies of US federal agencies and government is no small matter. So any open source inroads made in this space are, arguably, fairly admirable in nature.
Combine this positive development with the fact that the UK’s CIO Council published a policy designed to stimulate the uptake of open source across the public sector way back in February of the year and you can see why this is an issue.
So why go open source for a records management application? What’s the big deal?
It comes down to money of course. Traditionally records management apps would be priced on a per user basis and Alfresco’s Records Management Module v3.2 offers an open source pricing model that the company says will “significantly” reduce the barrier to regulatory compliance.
Alfresco’s tool has a web-based GUI offering secure access from any location and is typically described with all the normal buzzwords including native support of IMAP, drag and drop filing, seamless integration, single repository control and low administration overhead. Available from all good chemists and all in one easy to swallow capsule no doubt.
What this type of technology should open our eyes to is, broadly, the fact that the US is doing this and the UK isn’t. Alfresco chief executive and founder John Powell is refreshingly vocal on this subject and is (I would like to suggest) unselfishly highlighting his company’s success in the US to show us what we are not doing in the UK.
Perhaps the increasing adoption of open source in the commercial enterprise space will cause the government to wake up and see the benefits of these technology streams. Or maybe it won’t.