EC's IT chief hits out at open source hypocrisy claims

The European Commission (EC) director general of informatics has hit back over claims of hypocrisy from an open source lobby organisation with regards to a software deal worth £158 million.

Francisco Garcia-Morgan had been accused by Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), that the deal with Netherlands based firm PC Ware was discriminatory in its favouring of proprietary sources over open source.

The deal which has reportedly been the largest software deal in the EC’s history secured a six year contract, known as SACHA II (Software Acquisition Channel), involving software from suppliers such as Adobe, IBM, HP, Oracle, Symantec and others.

Gerloff believes that the deal is in “direct contradiction” of the EC’s own rules, accusing Garcia-Morgan of being “totally misleading” over the promotion and use of open source software, claiming that it was a bad deal for the taxpayers in Europe who had funded it.

The FSFE president stated that such a deal means that the EC was aligning itself too closely with proprietary software vendors, which contradicts EC rules of competition.  It was also alleged that the deal contravened the Digital Agenda put forward in May this year, by not allowing the interoperability and openness that was called for.

Now the EC IT chief has hit back at claims of wrong-doing in the deal.  He denied that there was any conflict of interest in closing the software deal while simultaneously putting together the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) which is due to be published this week. 

The EIF is a specification of open standards which is being heavily opposed by precisely the proprietary suppliers who Garcia-Moran is arguably cosying up to with the SACHA II deal.

However Garcia-Moran argues that the EC is actually very supportive of open source products, utilising a substantial amount of software within its own organisation.  The commission already uses around 250, he says according to Computer Weekly, as well as operating 350 Linux servers and 800 open source web servers.

Furthermore Garcia-Moran cited a range of open source projects including an open source collaboration platform with 2,000 software developers currently working on more than 600 projects, and the use of an open source content management system, as well as pointing to the fact that the EC’s  ordering and invoicing both use open source software.  

Garcia-Moran also stated that Gerloff was himself misleading in alleging that proprietary software suppliers did not use open standards, as well as arguing that the commission’s infrastructure supported IT standards.

“Contrary to your statement, the contract in question does not only cover the acquisition of proprietary software, but also of open source software (OSS) and of OSS-related services, such as high-level support of OSS products, for example from Red Hat, Atlassian, Balsamiq Studios, Adaptavist and others,” said Garcia-Moran.

He added: “You argue that the commission should have come up with a strategy to take advantage of free software. I take this opportunity to inform you that the commission has actually had an OSS strategy since 2001.”