After doing my piece about the military and open source I was surprised to get an e-mail from John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute in Mississippi, who was kind enough to walk me through the deal.
(Technology Training Corp. ran a seminar on the military's use of open source last year. Its logo is shown.)
This is a big deal. Weathersby has been quoted to that effect since 2004 but this is a really big deal. Because it's not a test case. This has gone through the heart of the bureaucracy and emerged as policy.
"We (the open source community, industry and advocates) are now working WITH the mass of Government and not pushing against the great wall," he writes. "The momentum is now from 'within' the bureaucracy.
In terms of the DISA deal -- 50 projects going under open source licenses and a blanket purchase agreement for open source software -- the whole thing took nearly a year to put together, Weathersby writes.
The most important point is that the military approached him. Project leader Dick Nelson wanted a full open source strategy, and eventually noted lawyer Larry Rosen was even brought in to work with government legal counsel. This was not slapped together.
It's cool to have an Administration that openly supports open source, he adds, but it's far more important that "The continued adoption of open source within government it is now part of the collective decision making process. It now has a place at the table."
When I asked about open source representing a "make or buy" decision Weathersby grew especially enthusiastic. The key here is that it's no longer either-or:
The key is when government users realize that open source products work and there are real companies there to install, maintain, repair, update, etc...just like any other piece of software they have ever used. It's just that simple.
The fact that military planners now understand the open source ethos is important, and should provide momentum behind the discussions which have just begun over using open source in health care.
If the military has figured out the value of open source can health -- which ran one of the great pre-open source open source projects in the Veteran Administration's VistA system -- truly resist it?