Today I read the following article: London Olympics Says 'No' To Open Source | eWEEK Europe UK http://bit.ly/9kfZ9x
The article is a short account of a talk that Gerry Pennell (CIO of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games - LOCOG) gave at the Green IT 09 conference in May last year. I know, I know, a bit behind the times; maybe I should get out more instead of hiding under this dark rock. You kind find a speaker profile of Gerry Pennell here: http://bit.ly/cIsECG
Mr. Pennell before his current appointment worked as CIO at Co-op Financial Services (CFS) and before that at PWC and Barclays. His previous experience as technology director for the 2002 Commonwealth Games (generally considered to be a success, except by the local residents, who complained that the promised 'urban beautification' of Manchester city centre turned out to be nothing more than the temporary hiding of unsightly views by erecting hoardings and banners) is obviously what put him in the front running for the role in the LOCOG. His experience with Co-op seems to have been centred around cost-cutting measures by supplier contract consolidation and renegotiation - Case study: Gerry Pennell Co-operative Group - 20 Jul 2006 - Computing http://bit.ly/aUE50H
His career began after graduating with a maths degree as a project manager with Barclays (source: http://bit.ly/bH5uVS) so like most CIOs he's never had a technical background.
The article basically talks about one simple thing: should the IT infrastructure of the London 2012 Olympics run on Windows or Linux servers. Well, obviously Linux right? Right? Nope. Mr. Punnell says that he couldn't consider Linux as "Open Source software represents too much of a risk in terms of application compatibility", which by 'compatibility' he means presumably 'runs Windows apps'?
Which is a bit like when being asked what you would like for dessert, and given a choice of cheese or fruit saying that you wouldn't consider fruit, because it doesn't taste of cheese.
Except that it's worse than that, because Linux DOES run Windows apps (WINE, the WINdows Emulator: http://www.winehq.org), but obviously Mr. Punnell hasn't learnt this in his many years of running successful IT projects. Or asked anyone technically competent on his staff. Which either makes him a liar, or surrounded by idiots. Neither option sounds terribly flattering.
He further says that he doesn't believe that Linux is more efficient than Windows: "I doubt it drives any huge difference in terms of the number of servers involved” - hmm... obviously he hasn't read the TPC's benchmarks that show that the top 10 performers are, wait for it, all Unix variants (4 of the top 10 are Linux). None of the top 10 performers run Windows http://bit.ly/3sBFQr
Well, it's easy to be confused by Microsoft's FUD I suppose, I mean it's obvious most of the world's servers run Windows, right?
Even Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) said in Sept '08 (http://bit.ly/9544md) "Forty percent of servers run Windows, 60 percent run Linux, how are we doing? Forty is less than 60, so I don't like it. ... We have some work to do." You can pretty much guarantee that the figures were actually higher than that then, with the creative use of statistics. Remember that this is all server use, including every tiddly little company MS Exchange and network share server not 'server use by significant operations'. For that you could look at say, Top500.org which monitors the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world:
Operating system Family share for 11/2009 | TOP500 Supercomputing Sites http://bit.ly/kNmx1
What is Microsoft's market share here, where it is free to exercise it's corporate muscle for the biggest computer projects in the world? Surely much higher than 60%? 80%? 90%?
Try 1%. Yes. One percent. ONE freekin' PERCENT.
89.2% of those are Linux.
So if 99% of the 'serious' IT projects in the world don't use Microsoft Windows Server, you would want to use it over a FREE alternative because? Come on, help me out, I'm struggling here...
Bear in mind this is public money that we're talking about here. My money. Your money.
It is interesting to compare his recent comments with an interview he gave Computer Weekly in the run-up to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, about precisely the same thing: http://bit.ly/bRO6ZY - in this article he also states the same rationale. He quotes the example of the Sydney 2000 Olympics (an IBM/Linux solution) and says that despite considering this solution, which was proven, he went with an all Microsoft solution because "some of the specialist applications were only available on a Windows platform" and "Multiple platforms would add to the complexity". When the only tool that you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail, perhaps?
But when we delve into this a little further, we learn that two specialist companies were involved with the timing (Swiss Timing) and results (Delta Tre). Delta Tre produces results services that run on their MAGMA platform, which is powered by Red Bee's (formerly BBC) Piero product, which runs on... wait for it... Linux!
Technical Information | Piero "The operating system is Linux based which has excellent performance and also has the advantage of being more stable than other operating systems. " http://bit.ly/cFeiw7
Swiss Timing on the other hand appear to use their own proprietary protocols and systems. So no Microsoft solution here either. So if the 2002 Commonwealth Games systems had to integrate with Delta Tre and Swiss Timing's systems, neither of which use M$ standards and protocols, the advantage of using a wholly M$ solution is... obviously not the stated multiple platform complexity argument, but something else entirely.
So here we have one CIO doing what comes naturally: shaking a familiar hand at Microsoft for the London 2012 Olympic procurement just like he did for the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games. Except that the difference here is that there is a new government policy ("Government levels the playing field for Open Source" http://bit.ly/ku6DJ) that states that Open Source alternatives must be considered, and discounted before a proprietary solution can be procured. Personally I suspect that these policies may have arrived too late for this procurement (unfortunately) or the outcome should have been very different.
Why would anyone that has nothing to gain from a tender for a procurement that is funded with public money want to spend millions fattening the wallet of M$ shareholders? I cannot say.