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Mass. Open Source Vs. Proprietary Software Battle Heats Up

The Massachusetts state government's attempt to push open source software is being challenged by one state lawmaker who is questioning the state IT leadership's actions.

"We want to know what their authority is," said Senator Marc Pacheco, who has formally asked the head of the state's Office of Administration and Finance (OAF) to provide him with the legislative authority for its relatively new policy of advocating open source software.

In a letter to Secretary Eric Kriss of the OAF, Senator Pacheco asked: "1. Under what legal authority is the Administration purporting to act in implementing its Open Source/Open Standards Policy; and 2. Please explain how the policy, which appears to be a preferential policy, does not run afoul of the Massachusetts General Laws..."

The state lawmaker's letter was responding to a memo sent by Kriss to the state's Chief Information Officer Peter Quinn last fall that set off alarms within some the state's business software community. It said: "We can no longer afford a disjointed and proprietary approach that locks up legacy systems, generates excessive use of outside consultants, and creates long, often misguided project plans...Effective immediately, we will adopt...a comprehensive Open Standards, Open Source policy for all future IT investments and operating expenditures."

Pacheco, a Democrat, said the new policy is "perceived to be an exclusionary policy that excludes proprietary software." He is chairman of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee and said he has received "lots of calls" from software companies whose business revolves around proprietary software, many of whom are concerned that they will be locked out of Massachusetts' $80 million IT budget.

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