Planning the exit strategy

GCN Lab TV at FOSE 2008 The GCN Lab guys take their testing on the road to the FOSE trade show in downtown Washington DC. Come check out all the great products from the show that may soon be installed at your federal agency. Watch them here.

The costliest and most overlooked part of a technology project is an exit strategy, said Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems and chairman of Sun Microsystems Federal.

'If you build Frankenstein 1.0 out of 40 different body parts ' how do you get to Frankenstein 2.0?' he asked. That is the situation facing many federal technologists who are looking to move from older systems to modern technology, McNealy said today from the Fose Conference and Exposition in Washington.

When deciding to implement new technology, most people look at barrier-to-entry costs and cost of ownership, without studying the costs of moving to a new system once the old system needs to be retired, he said.

One reason people choose open-source technologies is that there are no barriers to exit, McNealy said. There also are no barriers to entry, and the technology is interoperable across multiple platforms. Additionally, because the technology is shared, there is more research and development across companies rather than a proprietary system.

McNealy argued against some concerns expressed by federal technologists, including safety and security concerns. 'If you want safe and secure get naked, get transparent,' he said. 'There's a default rule of thumb: If you have a secret in code it will get discovered. That's why public key encryption was founded.'

McNealy said that because so many more people look and work with open-source code than proprietary code, bugs and other issues get fixed faster and more thoroughly. McNealy compared the bugs in Java versus desktop application programs, which traditionally have proprietary code.

McNealy also countered other concerns, including potential IP risks, support, applications and mission critical applicability. 'I can't think of anything you are doing in the U.S. government today that couldn't be done in open source technology today,' he said.

FOSE is run by the 1105 Government Information Group, which also owns Government Computer News.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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