Home City of Denver Dives Into the World of Open-Source

City of Denver Dives Into the World of Open-Source

The city and county of Denver, Co. is taking a big dive into the world of open-source – another sign of a global trend by government organizations to adopt open practices to benefit its citizenry and to better improve often archaic technology infrastructures.

For the city of Denver, moving to an open-source infrastructure has been an ongoing effort. It most recently adopted Alfresco Software as its document management system, replacing 14 environments of all shapes and sizes, including EMC Documentum and Microsoft Sharepoint.

Decentralization is a trend that has had its popularity. But when it comes to content management, a decentralized IT Department can create a network of silos that make it difficult to collaborate.

The city of Denver was finding that it could not operate in a manner that citizens expect. Content management serves as a foundation that allows citizens to access information that before would have required paying a visit to city hall for copies of the information.

That can get expensive, especially with a city like the size of Denver which has a population of 600,000.

With Alfresco’s unified content management system, the city is expecting to save $1 million per year, said Al Rosabal, deputy chief informatio officer for the city and county of Denver.

Rosabal said it would have been cost prohibitive. He did face push back from some inside the organization. But what he proposed fit with the city’s five-year plan and the efforts to adopt Scrum, an Agile process for development.

Further, Alfresco fit with the city’s new blade servers and virtualized infrastructure, running on Red Hat with MySQL. In its entirety, Alfresco took 12 weeks to implement.

Alfresco John Powell said the government sector is by far its biggest market.

“Open-source is going everywhere,” Powell said. It is strong in the French government . It is strong in the Spanish government. In general, we end up going in at one-tenth of the cost.”

Companies like Google will tell you the same story. The government is going open-source in part due to efforts to be more transparent and the concerns about the high costs of proprietary systems.

Edward Pickle, Senior Vice President of OpenGeo wrote a piece that clearly states why open-source will have such popularity in government:

“With President Barack Obama’s Open Government Initiative, local governments must now publish their information online in “open formats,” making it easily accessible to the electorate. This initiative not only requires agencies to preserve and maintain electronic information, it also mandates that they proactively release data instead of simply responding to Freedom of Information Act requests from the public. This is where open source software comes into its own.

Open source software is the key to prevent the initiative from becoming simply another unfunded mandate. With open source software, governments developing open information innovations have the freedom to share software code and applications with other like-minded governments and organizations.”

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