How open source got its wings

"There were questions initially, about support and documentation. But through proof of concept, out ability to show them the system works, we were able to scale the system in front of them without many issues."

How did the U.S. military go from rejecting open source a few years ago to accepting it today?

From successful applications.

Keane Software offers a data point. (The picture is from the South Dakota Schools' K-12 resource center.)

Keane, a corporate software developer, had a contract to develop a supply and logistics system for the Air Force. Given we are fighting two wars, this needed to be done quickly, it needed to scale, and it needed to work.

"They needed total active visibility across the supply chain" said Keane senior application solutions architect Shamlan Siddiqi, director of the company's system development practice. "They sought a vision to go to a SOA architecture, a more integrated set of applications, consolidating" a variety of systems.

"The project went through various iterations using proprietary software." Nothing worked. They went back to prototyping. "The requirements were coming in faster and there was an urgent need."

So Siddiqi started looking to open source. "One of the first things we did was build a legacy applications layer. We started using Apache applications for linking to it. We felt we could do it faster and in collaboration with them using open source."

They were right. The team built a Java stack using the Spring Framework, they used tools from IBM and Apache Tomcat.

"Instead of doing it in two-to-three years we did it in less than one. We integrated it into the Air Force portal," Siddiqi said.

"There were questions initially, about support and documentation. But through proof of concept, out ability to show them the system works, we were able to scale the system in front of them without many issues."

You can't use everything on Sourceforge for this kind of progress, he admitted, but there are many open source projects that have matured to enterprise level. Tools like Red Hat and JBOSS, and many of the Apache projects.

Best of all the code could be re-used. " We were sharing code with various projects. If there were map or calendaring functions or clocks on a project we could use that. There were code bases out there."

Keane is sold on open source. Its home page still advertises the company's expertise in Microsoft SilverlightSAP, but Siddiqi now has open source people in-house who can build complete systems, scaled systems, using open source tools.

And the Air Force, now apparently a satisfied customer, seems to have bought into the concept. Just like the rest of the military.

UPDATE: Throughout the process I confused the Keane Software where Mr. Siddiqi works with another Keene Software which does much the same thing. My apologies.