SRRPUB09 – Open Source
March 10, 2006 V2.0
The Department of Information Resources (DIR) issues Standards Review and Recommendations Publications (SRRPUB) as guidelines for Texas state agencies and institutions of higher education.
The United States, European Commission, and other nations have started addressing the use of Open Source solutions in public sector and e-government applications. Many of the applications used in government could be obtained and improved using the Open Source model (e.g., registration, licensing, certification, permitting). This should support purchasing best value solutions and removing the reliance on an individual information technology vendor.
In June 2004, the Government Open Code Collaborative (GOCC) was established as a voluntary collaboration between public sector entities and non-profit academic institutions. The GOCC was created for the purpose of encouraging the sharing, at no cost, of computer code developed for and by government entities where the redistribution of this code is allowed. The Department of Information Resources (DIR) has joined the GOCC and recommends that other Texas agencies and universities consider joining. Prior to a Texas agency donating code to the GOCC repository, they must fully comply with the GOCC Operating Agreement, that in part requires the following:
- The Donated Code fully complies with all licenses governing the use of such software.
- The agency has diligently researched and documented the history of its ownership of the donated code.
- The donated code is open code as that term is defined in the GOCC Operating Agreement and therefore legally available for distribution.
- The agency has had legal counsel review the due diligence performed and conclusions reached prior to placing the code in the repository.
Agencies should consider Open Source solutions in information technology procurements, and the criteria for selecting a specific solution should be based on best value. Agencies should use products that support open standards and specifications in all applications. Agencies should consider obtaining full rights to the software code it procures wherever this achieves best value.
Implementation, technical information and additional resources for specific areas addressed in this guideline may be found in the following sections:
In October 2000, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) published "Developing Open Source Software To Advance High End Computing." In the report they define "Open source" as "a generic term for software that is intended to be distributed to anyone who wants it, possibly under certain conditions determined by a licensing agreement. With the explosive growth of the Linux open source operating system over the last several years, the term has become increasingly commonplace. Two critical characteristics of open source software are:
- Access to source code: Source code is distributed along with executable binaries. This access allows users to modify, study, or augment the software' s functionality.
- Any licensing agreement must allow distribution of the initial software and redistribution of that software in modified form.
Common examples of open source licensing agreements include the General Public License (GPL) developed by Gnus Not Unix (GNU) and the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD a.k.a. FreeBSD). "The report identified two key issues that also apply to state government, the lack of inventories of open source projects is an obstacle to development efforts and that government should allow open source development efforts to compete on a level playing field” with proprietary solutions in government procurement.
The European Commission published an Open Source Software (OSS) plan that indicated the "European Commission and Member States will promote the use of open source software in the public sector and e-government best practice through exchange of experiences across the Union."
The United Kingdom Open Source Software (OSS) policy published in 2002 identified four key areas to justify the use of OSS:
- purchasing best value for money solutions
- removing the reliance on individual IT suppliers
- providing more flexibility in the development, enhancement and integration of systems
- vesting the ownership of bespoke and tailored software code with Government.
The United States Federal Government has established the Component Organization and Registration Environment (CORE) Website as a place to search for and locate specific software components. The CORE initiative grew out of the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) Project Management Office, the goal of which is to support cross-agency collaboration, transformation and government-wide improvement.
In December 2001 the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council (NEC3) published an Exposure Draft "Application Sharing: Best Practices and Lessons Learned," that included the following:
"There are many services that are conducted by government that have similarity. They cross over all areas of government, education, health and human services and business services. There is a litany of processes known as registration, licensing, certification, permitting throughout the social services and business area of government. There are another set of processes that fall under the area of filing including taxes, claims, records, and forms. Surrounding all the processes and functions are several renewal requirements and the need for duplicates of government documents. There is a high level of repetitive operations in these processes and portions that are very similar.
The government is working diligently on saving money and trying to make the best use of resources. It is clear that there is an opportunity for sharing applications, information, objects, components and other development work products. There are many obstacles and impacts to be taken into consideration in the area of application sharing."
Open Source Definition
The Open Source Organization has developed the Open Source Definition (OSD) that addresses the following key areas:
Open Source Organization has developed the Open Source Definition (OSD) that addresses the following key areas:
- Free Redistribution -The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.
- Source Code - The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost–preferably, downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.
- Derived Works - The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.
- Integrity of The Author's Source Code - The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of "patch files" with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.
- No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups - The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.
- No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor - The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.
- Distribution of License - The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.
- License Must Not Be Specific to a Product - The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program's being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program's license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.
- The License Must Not Restrict Other Software
In July 2002 the PESO Working Group discussed OSS on the list and at the monthly meeting. The discussion included:
- Open Source Technologies
- Public Accountability
- Security, Support, and Training
- Available Open Source Solutions
- Open Source Initiatives within Government Agencies
- Success Stories of how Various Agencies have used Open Source
Best Value is addressed in the Texas Administrative Code as follows:
§ 2157.003. Determining Best Value for Purchases of Automated Information Systems
"Best value" for purposes of this chapter means the lowest overall cost of an automated information system. In determining the lowest overall cost for a purchase or lease of an automated information system under this chapter, the commission or a state agency shall consider factors including:
(1) the purchase price;
(2) the compatibility to facilitate the exchange of existing data;
(3) the capacity for expanding and upgrading to more advanced levels of technology;
(4) quantitative reliability factors;
(5) the level of training required to bring persons using the system to a stated level of proficiency;
(6) the technical support requirements for the maintenance of data across a network platform and the management of the network's hardware and software;
(7) the compliance with applicable Department of Information Resources statewide standards validated by criteria adopted by the department by rule; and
(8) applicable factors listed in Sections 2155.074 and 2155.075
§ 2155.074. Best Value Standard for Purchase of Goods or Services
(a) For a purchase of goods and services under this chapter, each state agency, including the commission, shall purchase goods and services that provide the best value for the state.
(b) In determining the best value for the state, the purchase price and whether the goods or services meet specifications are the most important considerations. However, the commission or other state agency may, subject to Subsection (c) and Section 2155.075, consider other relevant factors, including:
(1) installation costs;
(2) life cycle costs;
(3) the quality and reliability of the goods and services;
(4) the delivery terms;
(5) indicators of probable vendor performance under the contract such as past vendor performance, the vendor's financial resources and ability to perform, the vendor's experience or demonstrated capability and responsibility, and the vendor's ability to provide reliable maintenance agreements and support;
(6) the cost of any employee training associated with a purchase;
(7) the effect of a purchase on agency productivity;
(8) the vendor's anticipated economic impact to the state or a subdivision of the state, including potential tax revenue and employment; and
(9) other factors relevant to determining the best value for the state in the context of a particular purchase.
(c) A state agency shall consult with and receive approval from the commission before considering factors other than price and meeting specifications when the agency procures through competitive bidding goods or services with a value that exceeds $100,000.
§ 2155.075. Requirement to Specify Value Factors in Request for Bids or Proposals
(a) For a purchase made through competitive bidding, the commission or other state agency making the purchase must specify in the request for bids the factors other than price that the commission or agency will consider in determining which bid offers the best value for the state.
(b) For a purchase made through competitive sealed proposals, the commission or other state agency making the purchase:
(1) must specify in the request for proposals the known factors other than price that the commission or agency will consider in determining which proposal offers the best value for the state; and
(2) may concurrently inform each vendor that made a proposal on the contract of any additional factors the commission or agency will consider in determining which proposal offers the best value for the state if the commission or other agency determines after opening the proposals that additional factors not covered under Subdivision (1) are relevant in determining which proposal offers the best value for the state.
Agencies should consider OSS solutions in IT procurements.
The criteria for selecting a specific solution should be based on best value.
Agencies should use products that support open standards and specifications in all applications.
Agencies should consider obtaining full rights to software code it procures wherever this achieves best value.