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Red Hat exec debunks open source myth

Paul Smith, Vice President and General Manager of Red Hat's U.S. Public Sector businesses addresses misconceptions about open source adoption and shares how it will “future proof” innovation in the public sector.


When it comes to government IT, open source is no longer just an option for many public sector organisations. It’s quickly becoming a necessity to both support and spur the creation of next-generation services, in addition to securing significant returns on investment.

Rather than functioning purely as consumers, these public sector organisations are acting as contributors, “furthering the conversation” as it were by giving back lines of code or even opening up their own projects to the open source community.

“Investing in open source provides a free and open platform for innovation, allowing the best and brightest ideas to take root within the agency, not just the ideas that a vendor deems ‘most profitable’,” Smith says.

“It allows agencies to build unique, differentiated services, providing valuable services to taxpayers without vendor lock-in or the steep costs traditionally associated with proprietary technologies.”

Dispelling misconceptions

While the benefits of open source adoption are indeed promising, Smith says efforts are still being made to clarify misconceptions and allay any fears surrounding open source.

“By far the most common misconception, which still occasionally rears its head, is that open source is not a hardened or secure technology,” he says.

“Enterprise-class open source, such as the solutions that public sector organisations work with, is incredibly secure. In fact, open source adoption took off in government agencies – particularly in the U.S. Department of Defense – because it is more secure.”

He shares that many intelligence agencies and governmental security bureaus have contributed to some of the leading open source distributions, providing hardened code and enhanced security functionality that meets their own rigorous standards. This, combined with the already transparent nature of open source code, means that governmental agencies can know for certain that their projects using open source are secure.

“Red Hat Enterprise Linux has completed 15 Common Criteria evaluation cycles, placing atop the list of the industry’s most certified operating systems. Additionally, we worked jointly with the U.S. National Security Agency to bring SELinux to Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” he adds.

Future proofing innovation

Over the next decade, as emerging services that demand open technologies, like cloud computing, continue to grow, open source will only become more valuable to public sector organisations. As a result, Red Hat’s commitment to the public sector will only deepen.

In addition, the adoption of open source solutions will continue to gain ground as governments worldwide embrace the tenets of transparency and openness in both business and IT initiatives.

“Public sector IT is changing almost too fast for agencies to keep pace; by investing in open source, policy makers can ensure that they are not only on track with the technology trends of today, but also future-proofed for the innovations of the future.”

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