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    Today’s open source is increasingly recognised for its ease of use, high performance and affordability, especially amidst today’s turbulent economic conditions.  According to CIO.com, 53% of businesses are already using open source. Another 10% plan to deploy in the next 12 months.

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    The government’s cyber security arm has given Bristol council the go-ahead to use open source software

    Bristol City Council has been given the green light to push ahead with its open source strategy following a meeting with CESG, the cyber security arm of the UK intelligence services.

    The council first announced its intention to adopt open source alongside existing Microsoft software in September 2010. As part of an ongoing review of its desktop systems, the council was looking to replace its current email system with an open source alternative.

    However, the plan hit the buffers when it was discovered that only three email systems are currently certified by CESG’s Code of Connection and security guidance documents. These systems are Lotus Notes, Novell Groupwise, and Microsoft Exchange.

    In choosing an open source system that is not accredited by CESG, Bristol City Council was concerned that it would not be able to process data rated at Business Impact Level 3, such as sensitive personal data and restricted information from government.

    The council was also reportedly advised by Microsoft reseller Computacenter that it could not use open source systems without falling foul of security rules.

    No accreditation issues

    At a meeting held last week between members of the council and Cabinet Office executives, including director of ICT futures Liam Maxwell and director of ICT policy Bill McCluggage, the council was told there are no security or accreditation issues that prevent the evaluation and potential deployment of open source systems within the council’s enterprise boundary.

    “We held a very productive meeting with the Cabinet Office yesterday, and they were able to reassure us that there are no security or accreditation issues that should hold us back from pushing ahead with our open source agenda,” said Bristol City Council leader Barbara Janke in a statement.

    “This is very good news and was warmly welcomed by the IT companies present. Our aim is to do all we can to see a higher proportion of money from our IT procurement ending up in the local economy and supporting the city’s innovative software companies,” she added.

    The Cabinet Office said it will continue to work closely with the council over the next few months.

    Mark Taylor, chief executive of open source supplier Sirius, who helped Bristol council formulate its IT policy last year, welcomed the news, describing it as a “great omen from the future”.

    “I hope that this fantastic Open Source project, which has seen more than its fair share of challenges, will now take off in the way we all hope it will,” said Taylor. “I hope it goes on to become the beacon of Open Source, Open Standards and SME engagement that the UK Public Sector has been waiting for.”

    Sirius was originally  recruited as an open source partner, but was reportedly kicked off the project by Computacenter, after refusing to sign an earlier report recommending an entirely proprietary infrastructure. The current open source partner is LinuxIT.

    Meanwhile, councillor Mark Wright, who pushed Bristol’s pioneering open source IT strategy through the council chamber last September, was also voted out of his post as IT portfolio leader earlier this year.
    Government open source commitment

    The UK government has previously committed to using open source technology and encouraging small business innovation, in an attempt to reduce the country’s deficit. Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude admitted in March that  the government had wasted vast amounts of money on ineffective and duplicate IT systems, and promised to “end the oligopoly of big business supplying government IT by breaking down contracts into smaller, more flexible projects”.

    However, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the BBC last month revealed that most government departments still spend the lion’s share of their IT budgets on software from big-name vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle, rather than seeking cheaper open source alternatives.

    The Home Office, for example, currently spends around 80 percent of its software budget with US defence giant Raytheon Systems for “IT, Broadcasting and Telecoms software” – amounting to £21 million out of a total pot of £26 million over 18 months.

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    An award winning electronic patient record system could help convince the NHS of the value of licence fee free software.

    Doctors need to be able to access patient data in the same way as air traffic controllers monitor aeroplanes, believes Bill Aylward, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital foundation trust.

    “The role of the air traffic controller is quite similar to a doctor, in that they both have to make frequent decisions in limited time, that have an impact on people’s lives,” he explains. “The difference is that the air traffic control has all the information required on the screen in front of them, or at the touch of a microphone.”

    Disparate electronic systems, imaging devices, emails and paper notes mean that this rarely possible in hospital trusts. But Aylward believes open source software – where the lines of programming instructions (source code) are freely available to view, and licence fees are not paid – could hold the answer.

    As part of a team of eight staff at Moorfields, Aylward has been working on OpenEyes, a collaborative, open source electronic patient record (EPR) project for opthalmology. As a collaborative framework able to integrate with different applications, it will allow NHS staff to work more efficiently and prevent the need to access multiple systems, each of which has to be logged in and out of separately.

    “You would sit down on one machine, with one log in, and there would be everything you wanted to know about the patient in front of you,” says Aylward. “That’s our vision, and it will make real improvements to patient care.

    “One of the key aims of OpenEyes is to give the doctor that air-traffic controller screen, so that all the data they need is right there in front of them,” he adds. Currently Moorfields has 18 separate silos of information, and some other trusts are rumoured to have many hundreds of different clinical systems, hindering the process of diagnosis and treatment.

    To explain OpenEyes, Aylward uses the analogy of an iPhone, which can run apps (software) from both its maker Apple and from approved third-party providers for a range of functions. “In other words, you’re providing an infrastructure that comes with all the basics you would expect, like security, writing correspondence, prescribing, which are generic to the whole of medicine, but will accept apps that do specific things within that infrastructure.”

    OpenEyes has been piloted in the paediatric accident and emergency department at Moorfields since last November and recently won the best business case at the Smart Healthcare Live Open Source Awards. It will be implemented widely at the hospital and a satellite site from this November to improve the surgery booking process, both for patients and staff. “It’s working well, it’s got good user acceptance and we’ve learnt a lot in terms of the design and the function of the system which is now going into the first release in November,” says Aylward. He hopes that Moorfields will have fully adopted the system and subsequently be paperless by the end of 2013.

    He added that the system has the potential to save several million pounds over three years as a result of improved efficiencies and the reduced amount spent on storage, fire protection and transportation of paper notes. The exact savings will depend on the phasing out of paper notes and their associated costs.

    Opening up to open source

    With financial rewards so high, the slow speed with which the NHS is adopting open source is surprising, believes Aylward. He thinks that a cultural stigma prevents healthcare adopting open source, unlike the Cabinet Office, which has made a point of reviewing contracts to see if they can use open source alternatives.

    “The NHS is culturally different. It’s used to paying out for contracts and getting something back in return, even if what it gets isn’t very good,” he says. “If you have diminished expectations then you don’t mind what comes along, even if it’s not very good. So it’s trying to shake people out of that and there are signs that it is changing.”

    The recent emergence of OpenEyes is especially pertinent in light of the ongoing problems of the National Programme for IT’s care records service, which has faced repeated severe criticism from MPs and the National Audit Office. “NHS IT is in a very parlous state,” says Aylward, who spent eight years as medical director at Moorfields prior to his current role. “It’s fragmented, it’s not fit for purpose and it’s not maximising its potential. Particularly at this point in time, when we’ve got lots of changes like producing outcomes data, checking patient records and the problems of paper notes, audit, research and revalidation, all of this is difficult.”

    Reflecting on the failures of the National Programme and the future of NHS IT, Aylward said: “I think the commercial model is not one that is suitable to deliver it in my view, or at least it’s had its chance and failed. If you throw £11bn at a problem and commercial companies give it their best shot and fail, that’s telling you something.”

    OpenEyes has additional benefits in that it can run on the internet as well as a trust’s intranet, meaning professionals currently excluded from secure health service networks, such as opticians, can be involved more closely in a patient’s care pathway. The organisers are looking for partners to help produce apps which will run on their framework and have already had lots of interest in the project.

    Aylward acknowledges that Moorfields is unusual in being able to develop a system like OpenEyes, something that other trusts might not be able to do. But because the software is available in source code form and therefore has no licence costs, trusts without internal expertise can consider using OpenEyes, although even without licence fees they may have to pay a commercial company to install the framework and support system updates.

    “In return, all we’d be interested in would be their feedback because the more users we have, the more feedback we get and the better product it’s going to be.” says Aylward. “Our final ambition is to make this not only work but make it the best possible software that can work.”

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    Close to half of all computer users around the world tend to get their software illegally, and business decision-makers are no exception.
    That’s one finding from a recent survey commissioned by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) lobby group, which reported the results in a blog post last week.

    “An especially troubling finding in the surveys is that business decision-makers exhibit similar attitudes and say they would engage in similar illegal behaviors to other computer users,” the report reads. “This finding is significant because software piracy in enterprise settings accounts for a disproportionate share of the overall software piracy problem in terms of commercial value.”

    Back in May, the BSA reported the results of its 2010 Global Software Piracy study, which asserted that the commercial value of PC software theft had leapt 14 percent worldwide last year to $59 billion. Now, as a follow-up, the group just recently hired Ipsos Public Affairs to survey some 15,000 PC users in 32 countries for a better understanding of the attitudes and behaviors behind this phenomenon.

    Among its findings were that a full 47 percent of computer users globally acquire their software illegally most or all of the time, including 34 percent in the United States, 30 percent in the U.K. and 27 percent in Canada, the group reports.

    Such figures were higher in developing countries, reaching 86 percent of PC users in China, 81 percent in Nigeria and 76 percent in Vietnam.

    Particularly notable is that business users are apparently no different. Piracy rates among business decision-makers in those same three developing nations, for example, were 85 percent, 82 percent and 79 percent, respectively.

    Companies with fewer than 500 employees were found to be more likely to get their software illegally, particularly in developed markets, the BSA notes.

    “Similar to all computer users, business decisionmaker pirates believe that legal software is better than pirated software because it is more reliable and secure,” the report notes. “But, like other computer users, they exhibit a general lack of awareness about which ways of acquiring software are legal and which are not.”

    It’s no secret that I think software patents are a scourge that needs to be gotten rid of, and I’m by no means alone in that opinion. In this era of lawsuits and revenue models based heavily on patent licensing fees (I’m looking at you, Apple, Microsoft and Oracle), the harm they’re doing to innovation is right before our very eyes all the time.

    Regardless of your opinion on patents, however, the fact remains that there’s simply no need to get proprietary software illegally and risk legal action. On MoneyTalksNews, Brandon Ballenger highlights a few specific alternatives, but in fact there’s a whole wide world of open source software available to you, generally for free.

    Even besides the Linux operating system–which is available in flavors for every taste and purpose–there are great alternatives for just about every proprietary package you may be used to. Not only are they typically free, but they also offer numerous benefits for businesses, including flexibility, customizability, interoperability and freedom from restrictive licenses and vendor lock-in.

    It’s easy to keep repeating past mistakes out of sheer habit–’Microsoft Trained Brain Syndrome’ is one perfect illustration–but once you start looking around, it’s just as easy to break free.

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    The open source industry will soon reach another milestone when Linux celebrates its 20th anniversary on Aug. 25. Advocates identify five misconceptions surrounding the technology and discuss how these have since been proven false with the emergence of a viable business model.

    Traditionally, open source software (OSS) such as Linux was created and refined by a community of software enthusiasts working on it as a hobby or fueled by their personal passion. Linux founder Linus Torvalds, for example, was a computer science student at the University of Helsinki when he created the operating system (OS).

    This has resulted in several commonly-held perceptions regarding OSS such as the lack of capabilities and support for deployment in the enterprise space, and an insufficient security foundation.

    ZDNet Asia spoke to three open source industry players for their views on these myths:

    Myth 1: Open source is not ready for the “big time”

    According to Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, vice president and general manager at Red Hat Asia-Pacific, the origins of open source resulted in the technology being associated with software that were “cobbled together by amateurs and hobbyists”. In turn, this allowed the myth that open source was unsuitable for use in corporate settings to perpetuate, he noted in an e-mail.

    However, van Leeuwen said “some of the biggest names in key industries” have taken to using open source platforms such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to implement high-volume, mission-critical applications. A good example of this can be seen in several stock exchanges and the fact that over 50 percent of the world’s trading volume is run on the RHEL platform, he pointed out.

    Futhermore, he cited a Gartner study that predicted 99 percent of Global 2000 enterprises would include OSS in their mission-critical software portfolios by 2016, up from 75 percent in 2010.

    “These points effectively debunk the myth that open source software isn’t ready for the big time and, in fact, validate its track record in handling demanding, mission-critical deployments,” van Leeuwen added.

    Myth 2: Big companies don’t use open source software

    In a related point, Lila Tretikov, CIO and vice president of engineering at open source customer relationship management (CRM) vendor, SugarCRM, said more enterprises were opening up their IT environments to open source deployments.

    She cited in her e-mail the example of Virgin Airlines as a global company that reiterated its support for open source during last year’s Open Source Business Conference, stating that the majority of the airline’s IT systems were open source and clocked a 100 percent uptime for all of these systems.

    Tretikov pointed to Google, Amazon and Facebook as other notable companies that leverage open source for their IT needs.

    Myth 3: Open source is not secure enough

    Security also has been an open source bugbear, according to both van Leeuwen and Tretikov.

    The Red Hat executive explained that because of the stereotype that open source was developed by amateurs, it was assumed that such software would contain multiple bugs due to the lack of quality assurance.

    Additionally, it was thought that these amateur developers were either not sophisticated enough in their skills or saw no reasons to build enterprise-grade security into the software they were developing, he noted.

    Arguing the point in a slightly different angle, Tretikov said the notion of paid software being more secure than open source ones had been “largely debunked” over the last 10 years, due to a series of “controversies” that spotlighted vulnerabilities inherent in paid software.

    “Many of the Microsoft Server OS’s vulnerabilities came out during the emergence of the cloud infrastructure,” she pointed out. Comparatively, Linux systems withstood the impact of exposure to the open Internet, she noted, which was why cloud computing vendors today base their technical stacks primarily on open source technologies.

    She added that the higher security threshold in OSS was driven by the software’s exposure to an “exponentially higher level of scrutiny” from software developers, security experts and hackers within the open source community.

    OrangeHRM CEO and co-founder, Sujee Saparamadu, chimed in, saying that Fortune 500 companies currently run open source software such as Linux for their mission-critical applications because these are “more stable than proprietary software”.

    Myth 4: Open source is all about infrastructure

    Tretikov noted that because open source technologies first emerged at the systems level, and subsequently went on to be used heavily to support cloud infrastructure services and platforms, people tended to think open source applications were only used at this level of the computing stack.

    That was not accurate, though, she said as “hundreds” of open source companies in the last decade had successfully brought to market enterprise OSS such as CRM, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and marketing automation applications.

    Earlier, experts ZDNet Asia spoke to agreed that open source projects have been mushrooming across the computing stack. Charles Zedlewski, vice president for product at Cloudera, also noted that OSS tended to be “most successful in broad, horizontal software categories”.

    Myth 5: It is difficult to find applications running on open source platforms

    As an extension to the point mentioned above, van Leeuwen highlighted that companies used to think there were few independent software vendors (ISVs) or big IT shops willing to develop applications for open source platforms as these would not be utilized.

    Judging by the number of developer partners Red Hat alone has been able to sign up, which currently stands at more than 2,500 ISV partners, he said this viewpoint obviously could not be substantiated.

    Companies, too, are now working with open source developers to come up with products that would boost their businesses, he noted. Singapore’s taxi operator, ComforDelGro, for example, developed its SMS (short message service) taxi booking system on the company’s JBoss Seam application server to help reduce customer waiting time and improve overall user experience, van Leeuwen said.

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    A decade ago, European countries leapt out of the gate to take the lead in the radical open source movement — none more so than France — and left U.S. developers in the proverbial dust. Through policies and high-profile projects, the French Republic for years has been advocating for all open source all the time, in government and education.

    And France is not stopping: This summer, an economic commission set up by French President Nicolas Sarkozy recommended tax benefits to stimulate even more open source development.

    Today, France is arguably the most fertile ground for open source development in the world. The well-known and respected OW2 Consortium for open source middleware has its roots there. Giant corporations, such as France Télécom, have embraced open source whole-heartedly.

    The fruits of this labor reveal a lesson that U.S. and U.K. developers would do well to take note: Everyone prospers when working together under a single, shared technology vision.

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    OpenClinica is the fastest growing open source software choice for clinical trials, according to data released by the company. Started in 2005 by Harvard alums Cal Collins and Ben Baumann, OpenClinica is already the world’s most popular open source software for web-based electronic data capture (EDC) and clinical data management (CDM).

    Over the last year, the number of clinical trials powered by OpenClinica has grown 250 percent and it is now believed there are over 400 active production implementations worldwide, according to Ben Baumann, Director of Business Development for OpenClinica. A single implementation can support multiple trials.

    “Given the need for a flexible, high quality electronic data capture solution that can be readily adapted to various settings, the rapid uptake of OpenClinica makes sense,” said Baumann. “But, we did not expect usage of our Enterprise Edition to triple in just one year. That shows tremendous confidence in our products by the clinical research community.”

    Since 2010, Baumann says there has been a 10-fold increase in OpenClinica-powered trials that were part of submissions to regulatory agencies like the FDA. The growth is also indicated in the number of people and organizations that have joined the OpenClinica online community—now over 12,000.

    Baumann believes the innovations in the forthcoming OpenClinica 3.1 software will continue to drive adoption and growth. Innovation is one of the themes for the Drug Information Association’s 47th Annual Meeting in Chicago, which kicks-off on June 19, 2011. OpenClinica will be exhibiting at the conference at Booth 1843.

    OpenClinica enhances the productivity of clinical trials through commercial open source software. Trusted by hundreds of biopharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations, academic, and government organizations worldwide, the OpenClinica software facilitates electronic data capture and data management, increasing the speed of collection and quality of data in clinical trials. OpenClinica supports HIPAA, 21 CFR Part 11, and other regulatory guidelines and is designed as a standards-based, extensible, and modular platform. For more information – including product downloads – visit http://www.openclinica.com or follow @OpenClinica on Twitter.

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    The online age has done wonders to help small companies loom larger in the public eye, but that virtual growth is not simply a marketing phenomenon. Some small and midsize businesses today find themselves contending with enterprise-like amounts of data, but without the equivalent resources to properly manage it.

    That’s a sentiment expressed by vendors, analysts, and smaller companies alike. “One of the things that’s been very clear in the last five years or so is that big data problems and big volumes of data are not an issue relegated to large enterprises,” said Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile in an interview. Jaspersoft, which makes business intelligence (BI) software, is among a group of open source companies pushing their interoperable “data stack”–their phrase for the spectrum of database on one end to analytics and BI on the other–as a viable alternative to proprietary platforms.

    Gentile is not alone in preaching the SMB data explosion. “It is a myth that the analytical requirements in smaller companies are less rigorous than large ones. In fact, it is often the opposite,” said Neil Raden, founder and president of Hired Brains, via email interview. “We have clients with fewer than 100 employees who have data warehouses or equivalents in the petabyte range, because data is their business.”

    That’s echoed by Cloudera’s vice president of products Charles Zedlewski. “If you look at small and medium-sized businesses, there are a lot of them where their entire business is predicated upon data,” said Zedlewski in an interview.

    Super-sized data might lead some smaller businesses to sign on with vendors that have traditionally buttered their bread in the enterprise. But the big-ticket platforms–even those that actively seek small or midmarket customers–can still prove to be budget busters for many SMBs. Cost and lack of IT expertise were listed as the top two BI inhibitors for smaller firms in a recent LogiXML survey. As a result, LogiXML chief marketing officer Ken Chow told me in a recent interview, “do nothing and use Excel” is very much a competitor for analytics and BI vendors that target SMBs.

    And that doesn’t even fully take into account the back-end: All that data has to be stored and maintained somewhere if it’s to be mined for analytical gold later. So can open source providers such as Cloudera, Revolution Analytics, and Jaspersoft solve the cost and complexity equation for SMBs?

    It’s a fairly straightforward sell on cost: Yes, open source software can save money on licensing and maintenance relative to commercial options. “They’re typically easier to acquire,” said IDC analyst Brian McDonough in an interview. “You don’t have the large expenses of an on-premises enterprise license. You can start small, deploy it incrementally, and grow it as you need it.” That accessibility has helped Jaspersoft, for example, hit 13 million downloads and 160,000 production deployments worldwide when including its free version in the count. McDonough points out that a key advantage of open source platforms is that SMBs–especially those relatively new to the analytics and BI world–can learn the technology and determine if it even meets their needs before making a significant financial commitment.

    As a result, open source software is giving SMBs a new entry point into data management and BI platforms. “This move towards an open stack based on industry standards is really going to level the playing field, especially between SMBs and these larger players that had access to these very expensive solutions,” said David Smith, VP of community at Revolution Analytics, in an interview.

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    German insurance giant LVM embraces open source

    Canonical has taken the wraps off a morale-boosting deal that has seen German insurance giant LVM Versicherungen convert 10,000 PCs to use Ubuntu Linux across the company’s operations.

    The project included the conversion of 3,000 desktop and laptop computers in LVM’s Muenster HQ with a further 7,000 in the company’s agencies around Germany. The core software used by the company is LAS, a Java-based claims-processing application of its own design, backed by Lotus Notes, Adobe’s Reader and the OpenOffice suite.

    The news isn’t entirely a surprise given that LVM has been using Ubuntu for some time. But converting a company’s entire install base to use the software is still a modest coup.

    LVM is also a demanding environment for any OS. The company’s workforce is bolstered by a small army of self-employed and mobile sales representatives that sell insurance at street and living room level. The LAS system is described as being used by the sales team in an ‘always-on’ configuration.

    The official release made no mention of the operating system being displaced but Techworld understands these were running older versions of Windows in recent years.

    “Many companies are waking up to the realisation that there is an alternative to an endless cycle of licence fees that can amount to millions of dollars. We believe that the investment that LVM have made in converting to Ubuntu by engaging with Canonical will pay off many times,” said Canonical’s VP of business development, Steve George.

    Could this another sign of wider mainstream acceptance for Linux or is it a one-off? Certainly, Germany has an interesting history of using Linux which tends to make large install stories look like eccentric deviation from the business conformity of Windows.

    It probably comes down to the type of business and applications that need supporting. Few businesses buy Windows out of great love for Microsoft so much as the belief that Redmond is a rock of relative stability in an industry in which companies have in the past come and gone, leaving applications unsupported. Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux model is now seen as stable enough to rival this in some business cases.

    That said, last year the Swiss canton of Solothurn went back to Windows 7 after hitting turbulence in a long-running Debian/GNU migration. There were special circumstances in that project but the ice melts both ways.

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    Ubuntu 11.04 will automatically download and install the correct Epson driver for your Epson printer upon connecting it to your computer.

    Users of Epson printers on Linux have, until now, been advised to manually download and install drivers from the AVASYS website.

    From Ubuntu 11.04 onwards simply ‘plugging’ in one of over 268 Epson inkjet printer models launched since 2005 will initiate installation of the correct driver.

    Epson’s Ikuaki Kitabayashi said: “We continually strive to make printers easier to use, so we are very pleased to be able to provide this convenient automatic printer driver download service to Linux users.”

    Till Kamppeter of the OpenPrinting project hopes that this move will lead to other hardware manufacturers adopting similarly styled automatic driver downloading services, believing that if they do ‘…Linux can become one of the easiest to use operating systems.’

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