As I promised in an Oct. 26 blog post, I am trying to get more background on the Associated Press (AP) story dated Oct. 24 that whitehouse.gov has changed its underlying content management software (CMS) to a product called Drupal. The story has implications wider than "just another CMS" deployment because the U.S. government is the largest single user of information technology, because Drupal is licensed under open source terms and conditions, and because CMS is likely to be one of the hottest segments of the enterprise-software market in the next decade as social computing (collaborative computing to us greybeards) converges with ERP.
But AP is the only independent primary source for the information and as I explained earlier, AP mangled the facts so badly that no one who follows enterprise software -- or politics for that matter -- can figure out what it was talking about. It turns out that the source I pointed you to, techpresident.com-which, like me, was dealing from the AP story, not from the original source- might have some errors in it, particularly in saying the Obama "White House has ditched the proprietary CMS that had been in place since the days of the Bush Administration." The Bush-era CMS was a home-grown Perl-based package called The Tool by its users and is believed to have been retired last Jan. 20, inauguration day, not on Oct. 24. Whichever, no one would call Perl-based in-house-developed software "proprietary."
Other independent Web sites, in particular The Register and CNET News are equally perplexed. Bloggers with skin in the game like the creator of Drupal and Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media - an investor in Drupal's corporate sponsor, Acquia - tell us it's a good deal filled with all kinds of meaning. But how is one to put such biased statements into perspective when neither General Dynamics, the large federal contractor that did the whitehouse.gov revamp using Drupal, nor Drupal's creator can or will say what the old CMS was, what other CMS options were looked at -- including open source options -- or even answer simple questions about how much the changes cost? Or who made the decision and why? Or what was the security issue that needed to be addressed so urgently?
Acquia deflects these questions to its PR agency which said, "We're not at liberty to say."
"I will forward your question to our customer as they have requested," said the General Dynamics spokesperson.
So into this vacuum comes two new bits of information, which may or may not be important:
So thanks to David Almacy and ohmygov for the background information, but I'm still trying to get some useful information to help IT managers and staffs in upcoming enterprise-software buying decisions. And to keep any C-level execs who saw the AP story off your backs. The no/slow news is perplexing because one of the advantages of Drupal, according to the AP story, was openness and transparency. Of course, that was one of the parts of the AP story that made no sense and Drupal/Acquia can't be blamed because the White House IT or PR folks have told its suppliers not to talk to the press.
I am beginning to suspect that the White House IT folks saw the ohmygov story and decided to make sure the new whitehouse.gov site was delivering as promised before talking about it publicly. But someone at the White House didn't get the word -- speaking of General Dynamics -- that loose lips sink ships.
For some possible investment implications of the General Dynamics contract, see my IT Investment Research Web site. But I emphasize "possible implications." There are too many holes in this story still.