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Newsflash for GE, you're already using 'risky' open source

A General Electric CIO has put his foot in his mouth by mischaracterizing open source even as his company broadly uses open source.

Open source is now mainstream and routinely used in mission-critical applications. For 99.999 percent of the people reading that statement, it's so obvious as to induce global yawning. But for Peter Gyorgy, chief information officer of GE's Consumer and Industrial division in Europe, it's apparently heresy.

Gyorgy is quoted by eWeek as follows:

I think open source is great for own internal playground type of things, but if it's running vital mission critical applications--networks running on open source for example--then that is a huge, huge risk to the organisation....

We are not here to be an IT shop, we are here to be the partner of a business and we shouldn't put businesses operations into risk by running very low cost solutions.

So much factual error, so little time.

First, it's ridiculous to suggest that because something is "low cost" it is inherently risky. Gyorgy seems to believe that the more he spends, the safer he is. Last time I checked, Google et al. were running their networks at more significant scale than GE, and all on open source.

Maybe Gyorgy simply doesn't like equal or better performance for less money. In this, he's apparently alone. The 451 Group's survey data has roughly 90 percent of the 1,700 IT executives surveyed declaring that they have realized cost savings with open source. These are IT executives that a few years ago might have shared Gyorgy's views on open source.

No more.

But Gyorgy needn't trust strangers. He could just talk with his colleague, Laurent Rotival, senior vice president and general manager of Enterprise Solutions, GE Healthcare who, in conjunction with one of the leading health care providers in the United States (Intermountain Health Care) and Red Hat, put together a Linux-based health care system that he describes as "state-of-the-art" and that "presents less risk for our customers, protects their total costs of ownership, and ultimately takes them from a legacy architecture to a state-of-the-art architecture."

Left hand, meet right hand.

Second, Gyorgy's assertions are ironic given GE's widespread use of JBoss, Linux (in GE Healthcare and elsewhere), Alfresco, MySQL, and other open-source projects, in Europe and globally. Contrary to Gyorgy's assertion, these aren't "internal playground type" applications. Some of them are mission critical by anyone's standards.

I am personally familiar with several of these.

So is Gyorgy's boss, GE's global CIO Gary Reiner. Reiner not so long ago purchased an enterprise subscription for MySQL when he discovered that GE was running MySQL all over the place, and not solely for internal "playground" sort of applications.

Apparently, no one sent Gyorgy the memo that spells out areas in which GE is actually sponsoring open-source projects (like VTK), in addition to its broad adoption of open source. I suspect Gyorgy isn't the only one to have missed the memo. After all, the CIO is the last one to know.