21st-Century Software, Services Require New Purchasing Programs

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News.com's Matt Asay suggests that organizations of every ilk should follow the lead of the Defense Information Systems Agency. At the recent Red Hat conference, he says, a representative of the chief technology officer acknowledged the agency's need to adjust its procurement program to make room for open source software and other service-centered offerings that don't operate within a traditional licensing structure.


Citing Government Computer News, Asay quotes the agency rep as follows:

"There are a lot of hidden assumptions" in how software is now procured, he said. While most commercial software is obtained through licenses, open-source software would be better suited to a support-based contract, since the software is free, at least in the uncompiled and unconfigured form.


As a result, the requirements analysis should look more at the issue of trust as the crucial component in the procurement. In other words, can the software be trusted to work as it is supposed to do? When bugs are encountered, will they be promptly fixed?

But it shouldn't stop there, Asay says, noting that his company, Alfresco, does what it can to make its subscription agreements look and sound license-like, at least, so the legal and purchasing departments of prospective customers aren't thrown for such a loop. His point?

...[S]oftware licenses were written for 20th-century software, while the world has moved on.

And it's not just open source, Asay, says. I agree. In a February 2007 IT Business Edge interview, technology writer Paul Gillen offered this prediction:

...SaaS is the delivery mechanism that will redefine software. It is, essentially, a new platform, and platform shifts are the most dramatic changes in the computing landscape.

It stands to reason then that a new software "paradigm" would require a new way of purchasing the services that accompany the technology.