Open source in the US Department of Defense: the Opticks story

The US DOD increasingly relies on open source. Opticks is just the latest example.

It's a bit surprising that we're barely into the real commercial potential of open source, and yet it's so widely adopted already. The next few years promise to offer open source hugely explosive growth.

Take this news from the US Department of Defense's intelligence community, which was recently gifted Ball Aerospace & Technologies' Opticks software as open source. Open source is widely used throughout enterprises. Now governments and military increasingly depend upon it:

Opticks is used by scientists and analysts within the Department of Defense Intelligence Community to analyze remote sensing data and produce actionable intelligence. Opticks supports Imagery, Motion Imagery, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), and multi-spectral and hyper-spectral remote sensing data. Ball Aerospace expects Opticks to increase the demand for remote sensing data and broaden the features available in existing remote sensing software.

"Ball Aerospace's Opticks demonstrates how government-sponsored code originally developed by a contractor can be maximized by releasing it as open source," said John M. Weathersby, executive director of the Open-Source Software Institute. "This creative business development effort is consistent with the forward-thinking strategy outlined in the Department of Defense's Open Technology Development roadmap."

It will be interesting to see where this Opticks code finds itself being used. The great thing about open source is that it allows for wide-ranging repurposing of code for uses not originally envisioned by the code author. Could Opticks find its way into a Google product? We shall see....

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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