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European Commission IT chief tackles open source lobby over €189m contract

Mark Ballard

The European Commission (EC) IT chief has taken the open source lobby to task over a €189m (£158m) deal the EC signed last week, its largest ever software deal.

Francisco Garcia-Moran, director-general of the European Commission's directorate of informatics, refuted a claim made by the president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) that the contract had discriminated in favour of proprietary software suppliers.

In a letter sent last week, Garcia-Moran told FSFE president Karsten Gerloff he had been "totally misleading" when he accused the EC of operating in "direct contradiction" of its own rules on the promotion and use of open source software.

The director-general disputed the lobbyist's accusation that the contract had been a bad deal for European taxpayers.

He also denied that the directorate general for informatics had a conflict of interest because it signed multimillion-Euro proprietary software deals while drafting the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), the controversial specification of open standards opposed by proprietary software suppliers. The EIF is due for publication this week.

And Garcia-Moran blasted the FSFE president with three pages of facts about the vast extent to which the commission used open source software.

These were examples, read the letter, of achievements "which very few (if any) public administrations in the world can match".

EC open source achievements

The commission already used 250 open source products, he said. It operated 350 Linux servers and 800 open source web servers. The EC's open source social collaboration system, called the Flexible Platform, hosted 400 wikis and blogs for 400 commissioners.

  • Open source authentication protected more than 300 web applications used by more than 60,000 users.
  • It used an open source content management system, and did its invoicing and ordering on open source software as well.
  • The EC's 2,000 software developers were working on more than 600 projects on an open source collaboration platform.
  • Sixty per cent of its applications were built with Java using open source tools. Open source browsers were an option for users of every desktop at the commission.

He said Gerloff had been wrong to assume that proprietary software suppliers did not use open standards. He said the commission's infrastructure supported all major IT standards.

"Contrary to your statement," read the letter, "the contract in question does not only cover the acquisition of proprietary software, but also of open source software (OSS) and of OSS-related services, such as high-level support of OSS products, for example from Red Hat, Atlassian, Balsamiq Studios, Adaptavist and others.

"You argue that the commission should have come up with a strategy to take advantage of free software. I take this opportunity to inform you that the commission has actually had an OSS strategy since 2001," said Garcia-Moran.

The director-general said the updated open source policy would be published "very soon".

The European Ombudsman last month criticised the commission over its purchase of an Alfresco content management system it claimed was open source, and procured as though it was open source, when it was not.


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