Data centers go green with open hardware, the UK examines open options, and more

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Open source news for your reading pleasure.

January 27-31 2014

In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, we look at open access to clinical trial data, whether the US is keeping its open data commitments, and more.

The UK investigates open office software

The United Kingdom is taking the first steps toward saying goodbye to Microsoft Office and hello to a more open alternative, after it was announced that over £200 million of taxpayers' money had been spent just on licensing since 2010. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude gave a speech this week in which he emphasized open formats, and moving away from relying on a single software company to meet all of Britain's office software needs. "Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution," Maude said. But as he made clear in his elaboration, settling on open standards is the first step toward allowing greater flexibility in software providers.

Open hardware for better energy efficiency

Open server hardware has been receiving quite a lot of buzz this week as the Open Compute Summit wrapped up on Wednesday. Growing out of a Facebook effort to create an industry group to support more open, energy efficient hardware, the Open Compute Project gained the support of some major players this week. Some are hoping that open standards will increase competition between hardware vendors, who may instead compete for customer buy-in by promising better support or higher reliability. The commitment to open hardware comes with a license that resembles the GPL, which would require any alterations on the design to be contributed back to the project when the hardware is sold.

"YODA" part of open science win

Johnson & Johnson announced plans this week to share clinical trial data from its drug division with investigators and physicians who request it as part of their research. The new program is being hailed by some as a win for open science, since this type of data is typically shrouded in secrecy. Requests for anonymized clinical trial data will go through the Yale School of Medicine's Open Data Access (YODA) Project. YODA—which is a phenomenal acronym, by the way—will independently review the requests and make final decisions on whether to release the data. For more on the announcement, read the press release or check out this Forbes article, which has additional details on the program.

Is door closing on U.S. Open Data Policy?

The Washington Post is reporting that efforts are underway to water down open data legislation that would standardize and publish a slew of U.S. government reports and data. Proposed revisions to the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act or DATA Act would "remove requirements for standardized formats, eliminate a mandate to make all data available from the same source and significantly delay implementation," according to the Post. For more details on the proposed changes, check out Andrea Peterson's report in the Post.

OpenStack revamps its user feedback system

OpenStack, the free and open source Infrastructure as a Service project has been gaining ground in the cloud computing industry in recent months. With so much interest in the project, the OpenStack Foundation has been seeking new ways to encourage user participation from non-coders, in the form of a new user committee aimed at getting user feedback to developers faster than ever before. Also in the pipeline for OpenStack are efforts to develop a set of standards to encourage interoperability between different OpenStack versions.

Hat tip to writer Ginny Skalski and moderator Robin Muilwijk for sharing some of these news articles with me this week.

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Jason was an staff member and Red Hatter from 2013 to 2022. This profile contains his work-related articles from that time. Other contributions can be found on his personal account.


Thanks for sharing Jason. I think there is a growing trend world over, especially, in the government sector to adopt open source software. The benefits in terms of cost effective and high quality solutions go a long way in devising a more strategic policy. In that direction some of the recent efforts and changes made by cities in Germany and private sector in India are worth noting as well.

The best things about open source is that it is a dynamically changing phenomenon (due to commitment of millions of people around the world) and the fact that all failures and successes of open source are open. It's evolution is much faster than the closed software methodology. The community learns, grows and gives back, and that is one of the foremost attraction to adopt the open source services and products.

What is so bizarre about developments in the Open Compute hardware project is that dozens of seasoned technology professions, including myself cannot understand any logic or benefit to the organization allowing Microsoft membership.

In almost every "Open Standards" and/or "Open Source" technology initiative in the past 7 - 8 years that accepted Microsoft involvement, the company has either sabotaged the effort and/or went on to start an alternative and competing project, as was done with ODF at the Document Foundation, when Microsoft created the supposedly "open format" OOXML format standard, based strictly on their proprietary and patented technology, and which had little or no following.

This action, which many in the Document Foundation and other Open Standards groups considered sinister and deceitful has caused great confusion and ambivalence in the technology world about the whole Open Standards process, much to Microsoft's benefit. One can only hope that any 'negative' and 'destructive ' influence they may have on the popular and expanding Open Compute hardware initiative will be minimal or non-existent.

It is inevitable that all the publicity of the UK government's great displeasure with the (exorbitant) costs of Microsoft Office license fees, some 200 million plus Pounds just since 2010 resulting in their considerations of a move to "Open Standards/Open Source " LibreOffice or OpenOffice suites, will cause a chain reaction in Redmond, Washington State, USA.

Microsoft will quickly dispatch senior executives to the British Isles with all sorts of offering and alternative licensing plans in hand, in a very strong attempt to persuade these Brits to reconsider.

According to officials in the Munich, Germany municipality, Microsoft were very persistent and even became belligerent in later stages of the city's apparent unwavered stance to abandon Microsoft technologies, with the company even engaging HP of Germany in a last ditch effort to create a report (proven not credible) that actually challenged the Munich government about the veracity of their own City careful findings that supported many technical, business and cost benefits in adopting "Open source" alternative technology.

The UK government can surely expect at least as much of an intense and forceful challenge to the possibly of losing such a profitable customer. Lets see if the British retain any of their reputation for fortitude and dogged determination to "Keep Calm and Carry on" in changing to Open source for the better.

Thanks W Anderson, for this insightful feedback. In the Netherlands, were I live, a town recently moved to open source as well and it would be interesting to see how this evolves.

Thanks for the insightful feedback Robin and W Anderson. In India too, the state of Kerala announced its official support of open source software in 2001 in its state I.T policy. That was the year when Richard Stallman inaugurated Free Software Foundation of India. Since then the government has been very active in launching open source projects state wide. One of the projects was IT@ School Project which used Linux based systems:

Thanks for sharing great article Jason. Going green is growing trend in technology world wide. Open Office is mostly used in small and large organization because of its cost effecting factor to manage data entry. It would be a great news for us that data centers going green with open hardware.

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