Open Source: Locked Into Uncertainty

At times it seems like parts of Microsoft are legitimately trying to change. It’s hard to believe anything they say when you see things like this though.

The ad takes you to case studies from Microsoft, including one showcasing the State of Illinois’ email consolidation project. Utah did something similar back in 2002. Believe me, it’s not an easy job.

As you’d expect since it was a Microsoft case study, Illinois chose to consolidate an Exchange/Active Directory solution–they had different agencies using Exchange, GroupWise, and Notes. We were luckier–almost everyone was usin GroupWise and Novell directory–although there were lots of servers with out of date versions that had to be updated before we could install a meta-directory.

I wouldn’t fault any CIO for choosing Exchange. It’s the dominant email platform at this point and clearly the safe choice. What I do find a little interesting is that Illinois officials would go out of their way to help Microsoft create an anti-open source propaganda video. The two stars are Paul Campbell, Director of CMS (Central Management Services) and Tony Daniels, the agency’s Deputy Director. At one point, Daniels says:

“People say that open source doesn’t lock you into any one company, but when you think about it, it locks you into uncertainty.”

Daniels also says something about not having time for “science projects.” Did Microsoft write the script? Sadly, probably not. That’s probably what he really believes. When I became CIO for Utah, I found a culture that was ignorant and, in some cases, scared of open source. That’s probably not just true of state government, but any old-line business.

This brings up a good point. Microsoft is so pervasive in some places and spends so much money on FUD that some people actually think this way. But they think these things not based on reality, having tried Open Source or even factual information. It’s just a matter of what they know and are comfortable with. The work ahead for us is going to be long and arduous. It’s going to be a war of attrition. Changing a mindset, especially one not necessarily formed of facts, is not an easy thing. That being said I wholeheartedly think it’s a worthy challenge. Sure, Open Source has it’s flaws. Everything does. The pros still vastly outweigh the cons. Open Source truly has the power to open doors many didn’t even know existed. Education is going to be one of the keys here. I see that as one of the reasons we’re on the right track. When a more educated and more informed evaluation inexorably leads you in one direction, it’s in that direction I want to be headed.


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