California’s OCIO defines, promotes open source software use

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the California Performance Review, which included a section called State Operations #10 that officially unlocked the door for open source software (OSS) for state agency use. Although some agencies had been proponents of open source since the mid-nineties, the state wanted to reaffirm its use.

So last week, California’s Office of the State Chief Information Officer (OCIO) released a policy decision, establishing a governance framework for the use of open source software within state agencies and departments.

“The [2004] California Performance Review encouraged agencies to look towards open source – the new policy is structuring open source in a way so that it’s done in a sustainable way,” Adrian Farley, Chief Deputy Director for Policy and Program Management at OCIO, said in an interview. “The new policy reaffirms to state agencies that OSS is an acceptable tool, and that they should consider open source when looking their business needs.”

The policy, according to Mr. Farley, places open source software and free software solutions firmly within the state’s tool kit. “We don’t want to see OSS as a side effort or one-off solution. It needs to be maintained and supported just as closely as proprietary software.”

But this is not California’s first OSS rodeo, Farley said. “California has really been a leader in OSS – particularly in web-based applications.” The state’s Recovery website runs an Alfresco content management system with JBoss applications and MySQL database software.

The California Air Resources Board and ARB CIO Bill Welty were among the state’s first open sources practitioners. Everything from operating systems, web servers and databases at ARB use open source or free software predominantly over proprietary software. In fact, over two-thirds of ARB’s applications run on Linux, with 91 percent of its web applications running on Apache web servers, and 75 percent of applications that require a database, use open source products.

For Farley and OCIO, the benefit of establishing an open source policy is that agencies and departments now have a clear path to incorporate OSS / FS in sustainable, consistent ways.

“It brings the same rigor, in process and management, as proprietary software.”