It’s A Linux Love-In

Government solution providers tout open-source OS at confere

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There was ample evidence here last week that federal solution providers are in love,with Linux.

Dozens of federal government CIOs and solution providers catering to their needs attended a conference sponsored by Dell Computer and Red Hat and sang Linux's praises.

"We had [IBM's AIX and HP-UX running, and we needed more X terminals," said Jim Wiedman, lead system administrator at Adnet Systems, a Potomac, Md.-based IT and telecommunications service provider under contract to NASA. "I said, 'Why do that when we can get three PCs and run Linux?' "

The system is working very well, he added.

"I'd love to [use Red Hat's tech support more often based on what we've gotten from them, but because the Linux community is so wonderful, we don't often need to tap Red Hat's support," Wiedman said.

That's music to Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann's ears. "We are delighted that individuals can get the answers they need on the Net," he said.

Industry observers say Red Hat and other Linux vendors must attain National Information Assurance Partnership certification in order to push Linux deep into the government arena. NIAP, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Security Agency, is developing a program that gauges the qualifications of products used to conduct system

certifications for federal agencies.

"NIAP today is the TPCC of one year ago," Tiemann said, referring to a performance benchmark Red Hat recently passed on a Hewlett-Packard server. Critics said it couldn't be done, he said.

Vendors that have traditionally occupied the federal space are on the defensive.

"A number of commercial vendors are concerned that open source will eat their lunch," said Chris Maresca, a senior partner at Olliance Group, an open-source solution provider in Palo Alto, Calif. "And they are even more concerned about the GPL than they are about Linux."

The General Public License, a set of conditions that pertain to open-source software, dictates that applications developed with a GPL tool must be freely available for others to view, modify and redistribute.

Critics of the GPL say adherence to it jeopardizes vendors' right to control and commercialize their intellectual property, but Maresca dismisses that argument. "People working on GPL software don't want it to be commercialized," he said.

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