US GSA Understands Open Source Software Value

by Todd Ogasawara

The US government's GSA (General Services Administration) manages many billions of dollars of purchases and operations for government agencies. So, it was interesting to see this quote from the following article in GCN (Government Computer News)...

GSA makes the case for open source

While Coleman [the GSA's CIO] saw many advantages to using open source software, she mentioned that, somewhat counter-intuitively, saving money may not be one of them.

"If you are looking at open source because of perceived cost benefits, you should know there is no guarantee it will be cheaper," she said. "Open source does not mean free."

It turns out that the GSA Open Source toolbox inclues JBoss, Bugzilla, JUnit, JMeter, and Eclipse. And, more importantly, the initial acquisition cost (free) is not necessarily the driving factor.

The article's author makes the classic mistake of thinking Open Source software cannot be commercial software: Not having sunk costs in a commercial software program also means the agency can move to a new program more quickly should its needs change. So, we still have to educate mainstream journalists a bit more about Open Source. However, the main point is that more and more people understand that the value of Open Source software is not tied to the often (but not always) free procurement cost.