Proprietary software--banned in Boston?

Massachusetts adopts a policy to favor open standards and open-source software in government computing projects.

David Becker
David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
2 min read
Massachusetts has adopted a new policy that favors open-source software and adherence to open standards in government computing systems, a state official said.

Eric Kriss, state secretary of administration and finance, said the policy was articulated in an internal memo that circulated last week and was formalized in a state capital spending plan released Monday.

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The policy says in evaluating new technology purchases, the state will give preference to open-source software and products that adhere to open standards such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

"We're going to be evaluating all projects to ensure conformance to open standards as we move forward and to retroactively move legacy systems to open standards," Kriss said. "We want to make sure what we build is interoperable and interchangeable, so that different applications can use the same data, so we won't have to be constantly reinventing and rethinking basic functionality."

The state will also give preference to open-source software, although it will continue to purchase proprietary products if they are found to be superior technologically or otherwise, Kriss said. He identified state Web servers, which currently run on Microsoft's Internet Information Services software, as a potential early candidate for retrofitting. "We're taking a serious look at Apache as a Web server," he said.

Changes will happen gradually, as they can be fit into the state's information technology budget, which allocates about $80 million for capital spending next year, Kriss said.

"We're mindful you don't change something as complex as the IT infrastructure of the state overnight," he said. "This is the beginning of a long journey."

Massachusetts joins a growing roster of governments that are embracing non-Microsoft software. The German city of Munich announced plans earlier this year to shift 14,000 PCs to Linux, and Asian governments have formed a coalition to explore open-source options.

Microsoft said in a statement that the state policy could discriminate against many software makers.

"We are deeply concerned if this policy eliminates fair and open competition in Massachusetts," said the statement. "Microsoft, along with others in the industry, including the Business Software Alliance and other associations, continues to support neutral procurement rules that allow everyone to compete. We hope the state recognizes that this is potentially bad for the Massachusetts economy, hampering open trade and IT progress in the state."

Massachusetts has sought the stiffest sanctions against Microsoft among the states that are participating in the antitrust case against the software giant. Kriss said the new IT policy is "totally unrelated" to the antitrust action.