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AMD Government United States IT Politics

U.S. Fed Goes Brand Neutral 203

Rollie Hawk writes "The White House and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent out notice this week that government purchases, including in IT, need to be open to many brand names. 'We are concerned the use of brand name specifications in agency solicitations may have increased significantly in recent years, particularly for information technology procurements,' according to the OMB. AMD is certainly happy with this news, having long complained of the unholy marriage between the Fed and Intel. Perhaps this will even open the way for Linux and other open-source options being chosen over Microsoft and the like. If this works out, it will lead to a better fiscal situation on many fronts. The increased competition will lower the cost to taxpayers (though the money will still get spent somewhere) and the wider spread of contracts will help competitors to chip away at the dominance of Microsoft and Intel."
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U.S. Fed Goes Brand Neutral

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  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:33PM (#12250882)

    Perhaps this will even open the way for Linux and other open-source options being chosen over Microsoft and the like.

    The government buys what its contractors tell it to. Thus, the only open source will get into the government is when the IBM's, EDS's and Oracle's of the world start pushing open source (or at least partial open source) solutions to the government. While there are many smart people in the government who like open source, they rarely make the spending decisions (and face it, MS and other proprietary vendors court the decision makers). The key is to raise awareness among the PHBs and to get the solution providers to push open source.

    • by Pillowthink ( 823672 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @08:33PM (#12251324)
      You're aware that IBM uses linux on every one of it's programmer's boxes and ships mostly linux servers, right?
      • You're aware that IBM uses linux on every one of it's programmer's boxes and ships mostly linux servers, right?

        Careful there. That's fairly broad. My best friend works at the IBM Software Lab (in Markham, Ontario, Canada). He's on the DB2 team, and I don't believe he ever mentioned using Linux. As far as I know his team is all using Windows (not that he's happy about that - I somehow doubt that because he's a Mac guy).

        A better statement might be that IBM uses linux a lot internally. Sure, they do.
    • IBM has been heavily promoting WebSphere and DB2 on Linux to the agencies I'm aware of. Sure, I'd rather be running tomcat and postgre, but you know, babysteps.
    • Keep in mind that nothing said in this article is new. When I worked for the DoT back in the late 90s, all of this was already the case. In fact, we were come down on for "single sourcing". Of course, we were doing so because we were trying to port an ancient product from HP/Apollo (obsolete) systems, and using the same hardware with a Unix OS was far easier than switching both OS and hardware platform, but we still had to spend months justifying that to the powers that be.

      The biggest boon to breaking mono
    • That the feds buy Tons of stuff...and have the ability to require other people to buy it to work with them!

      The feds can spend tens of thousands on small projects...millions on bigger ones...and still consider it "department" expenses. Imagine what a $100k check would do for many OSS projects...but it's just another "notch" for the big guys. The govt is known for paying cash up front to help the "little guy" start up projects. a great many "meatspace" minority businesses are started that way. More than

  • Pollyanna... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:33PM (#12250884) Homepage Journal
    If this works out, it will lead to a better fiscal situation on many fronts.

    Not necessarily. As one familiar with public purchasing, to save a few $ some very crappy hardware (and software) have been purchased over the year. Sometimes these items are excessively buggy and shortlived, which means the entity goes shopping again before the anticipated lifespan of the items has been met. Sometimes the software is such crap that it takes more man-hours to get things done than with another package (seen happen over and over and over and over again...)

    The increased competition will lower the cost to taxpayers (though the money will still get spent somewhere)

    What you say? If it still gets spent then it did nothing for taxpayers.

    and the wider spread of contracts will help competitors to chip away at the dominance of Microsoft and Intel."

    But it will increase the need for contract management and oversight. Further, if you have one or a few vendors there's only so much opportunity for finger pointing when the fertilizer hits the impeller. Complexity may be good if you're looking for jobs to make X work with Y and/or Z, because it's your specialty, but it can be a nightmare for containing expenses.

    While in general I think it's a good thing that there'll be more transparency in RFP's and RFQ's I'm too jaded to believe this is automatically all good.

    • But the very idea of "single source" vendors is against nearly every govt purchasing policy...except desktop software. In ANY other field from Nuclear bombs to pencils, they reserve the right to litterally take your company and have somebody else make the product if you screw up...and it DOES happen. Not to mention the mono-culture breeds bad software purchasing practices to begin with... right now there's really no "oversight" of contracts.. they just call up dell and order a new office full when ever th
  • AMD? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    AMD: Armageddon Nuclear Devices.
  • by DianeOfTheMoon ( 863143 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:35PM (#12250910)
    I know that not being "brand name" as far as components go is a good thing, but if they keep buying Dell, this is nothing more than an empty promise.
    • As I understand it, the UK has a policy that specifically mentions Free Software and Open Source, saying that should be considered equally alongside other options. But years after this policy was put in place, I've actually heard of contractors who were *ideal* for a job being told that they said all the right things in their tender, "except for one word: 'Microsoft'". This, because they said that they were keeping abreast of Open Source technologies, since the government had a policy on it!
  • by banuk ( 148382 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:37PM (#12250923)
    even open the way for Linux and other open-source options being chosen over Microsoft

    ...maybe they'll choose MacOSX I mean even according to Thurrott you'll see that Tiger is one impressive cat and besides, MacOSX is "slightly" more secure than Windows
    • Why is it a troll?

      I've seen a trend in federal employee/contractors moving away from Dell and moving toward Mac OSX quite often; others migrate from Solaris to generic linux boxes (not Dell hardware).

      Other than the fact that one unit of Mac OSX costs more than a Windows or a linux box, Mac is certainly a suitable replacement for office computers.
      • Other than the fact that one unit of Mac OSX costs more than a Windows or a linux box, Mac is certainly a suitable replacement for office computers.

        Which makes it hard to get the lowest bid.

  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g mail.com> on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:37PM (#12250926) Homepage Journal
    I can see a $499 Mac Mini filling the needs of a lot of government agencies. And it's immunity to viruses and spyware is a big bonus.
    • I can buy dells with a 17" LCD monitor and keyboard/mouse for $350. Toss on whatever linux distro and it is "immume" to viruses and spyware. The same setup is over the double the price for an Apple. But thanks for playing.
    • Change is hard. To add another operating system into an all-Microsoft operation would force the agency to hire more administrators that are familiar with the system, and possibly incur more expenses in the transition process. The agencies get their budget on a yearly basis, and I doubt that the introduction of another operating system would save them money on that time frame. In the long run, their administration costs would be lower (ignoring possible discrepancies between the salaries of Mac and Windows a
  • by BridgeBum ( 11413 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:38PM (#12250929)
    I'm all for the government opening up it's purchasing process in commodity markets such as PC purchases, but who is going to be making these decisions for the government? Consider this scenario:

    Engineer: We need to purchase 2 Cisco 7206VXR routers for our internet T3s.

    Procurement: I'm sorry, you can't specify the brand. I found this nice Linksys router for you. It's much cheaper.

    Given the level of (in)compentancy in goverment offices, do you really think that the above scenario is so unlikely?

    P.S. I'm aware that Cisco owns Linksys. That just adds to the irony IMHO.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:49PM (#12251029)
      Mods; forgive my posting as AC, but I'm not really supposed to talk about this aspect of my job... hehe.

      Anyways, you have no idea how fucked up this can actually get. Some parts of the government actually have policies which mandate that they buy from multiple competitors. In the industry that I'm in (contractor for the air force), this gets a bit out of hand. One project that I worked on involved a jet engine which was the result of a joint-effort between two companies which have been competing against each other for the last 50 years.

      Needless to say, the whole thing is an enormous clusterfuck. Neither company wants to share data with the other. Both sides use different notations, document formatting, and so forth, and neither bothered to find a middle ground. So that left our company in the middle, in sea of miscommunication and scrambled data. Add this to the pre-existing incompetence of the army at large, and christ knows how they ever managed to get this plane off the ground.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      We need to purchase 2 Cisco 7206VXR routers for our internet T3s.

      You know, there are many other router vendors out there, like Juniper and Foundry, that perform better than Cisco gear for a lot less.

      That's why they don't want you to specify the brand. Specify the desired function instead.
      • Disclosure: I am a Cisco Channel Partner

        While there are a lot that are "better" (for certain sets of features), and cheaper, Cisco has the benefit of being the incumbent. While I realize they have a pseudo-monopoly on high end internetworking gear, I cannot afford to run the risk of incompatibility for the sake of buying something else. Frame is not always frame, to use a specific example, where interoperability across the link sometimes doesn't work as well as it should.

        In addition to that, Cisco TAC i

      • Any switch will do, so long as it runs the Cisco IOS--because that's what our support is trained and experienced with; and if we can get Cisco to support it--because we have used Cisco support, and they are reliable, fast, and knowledgeable.

        That's the spec; any switch that meets those requirements will do. So it goes.
        • Any switch will do, so long as it runs the Cisco IOS--because that's what our support is trained and experienced with; and if we can get Cisco to support it--because we have used Cisco support, and they are reliable, fast, and knowledgeable.

          So, the real spec to keep both the techs and the beaureacrats happy would be: any switch that (1) either is compatible with the existing skills base, or where the vendor will provide full retraining for current personnel, and hire bonded temp contractors certified fo

  • by shakezula ( 842399 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:38PM (#12250939)
    Stick my percentage back in my Social Security account please.
    • There isnt one, its a rolling IOU banner.

      Its just one big excell spreadsheet, no real $$$ in any real account, USA is running worse than legal dodgy enron style accounting.

    • If the economy was growing like it used to, you lazy bum, you wouldn't have to worry about social security.

      Stop reading Slashdot and go back to work.

      As to being on-topic? Can anyone seeing our government saying, "FU" to MS like Brazil did? This is just the groundwork, Linux needs a charismatic leader with an incredible product to lead it to actual mainstream status.
      • I'm certainly not planning on retiring on my Social Security money, but I'd like to get it none the less. It comes out of my paycheck twice a month, so why not want to collect eventually? We're all ardent about getting back our tax money each year, how is Social Security tax any diffrent?
        • It's not your social security money. It's someone else's. If there's enough to go around when you're eligible to collect (probably going to be life expectancy + 5 soon) then you get *some* back ;p
        • It comes out of my paycheck twice a month, so why not want to collect eventually?

          Because despite decades of obfuscation by politicians, it's just another tax. (A regressive tax at that, which oddly Democrats don't seem to mind). I don't have any expectation that I should get my income tax payments returned to me later; ditto for the payroll tax. My 2-point plan for Social Security reform is to abolish FICA taxes entirely (raising other taxes as needed) and means-test benefits. SS is supposed to be insuran
  • by lateralus_1024 ( 583730 ) <mattbaha@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:39PM (#12250943)
    I knew holding my eMachine stock would pay off.
  • The Fed actually gives money back to the US Treasury because they make more money on interest on the US T-Bills they hold than is required to operate.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @07:54PM (#12251076) Homepage Journal
    Old spec:
    Microsoft Word 2003

    New spec:
    Word processor which supports the following requirements:
    {insert long list of specifications at least one of which is covered by a Microsoft patent}

    • Next thing you know, they'll hide the old spec in the new one, for example, the purchaser must read the first character of each line in the list!!

      - Must have spellcheck
      - Sensitive help
      - Wordprocessor
      - Odd pages must be numbered
      - Really needsgrammarchecking
      - Does not need feature X
  • Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by asoko ( 657763 )
    though the money will still get spent somewhere

    Isn't it amazing what a waste of money our government is? No politician would ever consider actually NOT SPENDING money they don't need. Tax freedom day falls on April 17 this year (after which, proportionally, you will spend the rest of the year working for yourself rather than the government).

    We went to war with Britain over 5% taxes. Today, we're practically a socialist country. Ever wonder why the IRS takes your money automatically and invisibly? W

    • Ever wonder why the IRS takes your money automatically and invisibly?

      Withholding for income tax is both voluntary and visible-- take a look at your pay stub. Sales tax is also visible, which is actually pretty rare in the world at large. Finally, you actually have to fill out a tax return, which again isn't the norm globally, though not exactly uncommon.

      Corporate taxes are invisible to the consumer despite their impact on the economy, but I'd say relatively speaking the US tax system is one of the more

      • Don't get me wrong, though, I just paid my taxes, too, so I'm also pissed off about them. Damn farmers...

        I just sent in my 1st quarter estimates - including the Self Employment taxes. Damn old people...

        Not really nice, but when complaining about farmers, remember that they are actually working for their handout.

    • War with Britain (Score:5, Insightful)

      by guet ( 525509 ) on Saturday April 16, 2005 @02:21AM (#12253005)

      Today, we're practically a socialist country.

      Either you have no idea what socialism means, or you're wilfully misusing the term.

      The US is presently at the opposite pole from socialism, you'd do better to choose fascism (in the sense of govt being close to corporations) if you wish to exaggerate. Taxes are currently relatively low [worldwide-tax.com] in the US. I still wouldn't want to live there though, because healthcare and education don't seem to be government priorities (relative to the UK for example). Military spending, in contrast, is at an all time high. Not all government is bad, contrary to received wisdom on this website.

      • here's a fun thing to do on a slow saturday (like today):

        1) find a copy of the communist manifesto, scroll down until you reach the ordered list of tasks to accomplish.

        2) find a summary of the accomplishments of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal".

        3) compare and contrast.

        the united states is more democratic and socialist than you would think.
        • democratic and socialist

          Democratic; definitely, Socialist; not remotely (not that I view socialism as a panacea).

          Communist manifesto... New Deal

          That's a fun comparison, but the communist manifestos claims were made in the midst of the industrial revolution, almost 2 centuries ago, when child labour was common and workers lives and health were disregarded. It's not surprising they'd focus on egregious abuses that today we find abhorrent. I'm sure Marx and Engels would have a few things to say about cur
          • That's a fun comparison, but the communist manifestos claims were made in the midst of the industrial revolution, almost 2 centuries ago, when child labour was common and workers lives and health were disregarded.

            The origins of the idea does not negate the validity of the comparison. What Marx or Engels, or anyone else for that matter, cares about western civilization has no bearing on the comparison of the New Deal to The Communist Manifesto. nor does it lessen the point: the major measurable tenets of s
  • Government Standards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @08:14PM (#12251212) Homepage Journal
    How about just design ( and make available to the public ) a system design, right down to the components and open it up for bidding.

    Forget choosing 'off the shelf' items and just specify EXACTALLY what is needed.

    One standard system, across all levels of government. Share the production across several companies, no one gets 'preference'.

    Start with open technologies like SPARC, and work from there.
    • Arrgh typos suck...

      Wonder if they are already patented?
    • That only works fine for already-designed components. But quite often, industry is asked to design the system as well - perhaps because nothing quite like it already exists on the market, or simply because they are better suited to do the job.

      If you move all design activities to the government you will eliminate all design capability in the industry. And actual implementation is already done cheaper in China anyway...

  • Who are you and what have you done with Dubya?!
  • by Attackman ( 95672 ) * <tom.tomtostanoski@com> on Friday April 15, 2005 @08:28PM (#12251292) Homepage Journal
    "...having long complained of the unholy marriage between the Fed and Intel."
    Shhh. With the current administration, that's an "unholy civil union." And don't think you can just talk about it that way either. We'll not discuss how a federal institution and a chip maker are living in sin, thank you very much ;)
  • I always wondered why the use of Linux in government was criticized. They claimed that it was a security threat to use an OS operating system since anybody could find the code online. But they never took into account that the government could change the code as much as they wanted to make it more secure, more efficient for their purposes, and even less compatible with other programs if they wanted. And since they wouldn't be marketing the changed versions, they wouldn't have to post or even announce them
    • Actually, the fact that the code can be doctored so easily is a security risk every but as much as mystery meat from a vendor is.

      Unless you personally review, vet, compile, and distribute your own stuff, you don't know what is in it. At least the mystery meat you can take an md4 of the binary and check it's integrity.

      Now, in 4 or five years when some agency of the Federal Government is put in charge of taking snapshots of GNU/Linux software, reviewing the code, vetting the code, compiling it, and distri

  • Am I the only one that sees this as possibly a bad thing?

    I mean, sure, it's all fine and good to use an AMD cpu instead of an Intel...
    ...but the plain fact is that far too many OSS alternatives just don't interpolate well enough with proprietary applications. Take Microsoft Office as an example. OpenOffice is about the only real OSS alternative, and yet, there are far too many instances where OpenOffice cannot handle the way that MS-Office did something. In such instances, OpenOffice might crash... or
    • Am I the only one that sees this as possibly a bad thing?

      Probably not, but that has no logical bearing on the discussion.

      The problem with any software which attempts to interoperate with a proprietary data format is that the proprietary format is designed to exclude that interoperation. Don't blame the other software for that! The same is true whether the other software is free or encumbered.

      You're right, it is about your tax dollars, and mine, and our children's. It's an egregiously bad idea for g

      • It's an egregiously bad idea for governments, operating with public funds in the public trust, to allow themselves to get locked into any proprietary data format.

        I absolutely agree with your statement and do believe that governments should not just support free and open standards but should mandate them. In other words, if the government wants a private sector entity to build software and hardware for them, such projects should promote the creation and maintenance of free and open standards. (Don't ask

        • I wish that I had some points today so I could mod you up. You've expressed a couple of insightful ideas here that I've never heard before.

          But something I've been thinking about lately is how it would take all of maybe 5 minutes for the US government to force a US company to open its IP if, say, national interests depended on it.

          Food for thought. Yes, I can see that scenario too. It first strikes me as reassuringly feasible, but then on further thought seems extremely unlikely. With so many hands re

    • If NASA can have space shuttles crash because they get confused dealing in both metric and english systems...

      Which space shuttle was that, then?

      But you make a good point. In order to have any kind of competition, proprietary formats must be ruled out, either through thorough and free documentation or by not accepting any solutions that include them. It would be a good thing if the government started working on that.

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday April 15, 2005 @09:24PM (#12251624) Journal

    Whatever happened to the government requirement that systems and technology be POSIX compliant? I know I first was aware of that bent back in the early nineties, because that's when I went to work with Microsoft under the auspices of NT and its "POSIX compliance". It's also when I quit working for Microsoft when at the NT POSIX sub-system presentation (video-taped for posterity's sake) "Margaret" prefaced the presentation with the announcement (and I paraphrase), "Before we get started with the presentation, let me make clear that as far as Microsoft is concerned, we don't care about the POSIX sub-system, we don't intend to support it, and we don't intend to do anything with it in the future. It's simply a check box so we can get Government contracts."

    I thought the move to POSIX compliant systems was a step in the right direction, and I'm not sure I've seen any news or publicity to the contrary. Guess something's changed...

    For the record, a subsequent followup phone call to Larry Kroger at Microsoft confirmed the message in a strong way....

    • Windows NT POSIX compliance was about as sincere as the Bars in Philly selling hot dogs to meet the requirement they serve food.
  • by brianber ( 575995 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @10:33PM (#12251974)
    ...on many mission critical systems. I happen to know the latest and greatest submarine Fire Control and Sonar systems run on Linux. I'd say about 90% of the stuff that runs Windows is non-mission critical. If the sub,s LAN goes down, sure it sucks, but no one is going to die as a direct result...at least not on a 688. If we lose Fire Control or Sonar, we're screwed.
  • On the topic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by briancnorton ( 586947 ) on Friday April 15, 2005 @10:42PM (#12252019) Homepage
    I can say 100% firsthand that UNIX in government offices does not lower costs to taxpayers. In fact, it can (and has) multiplied them by a factor of up to 10. (that I have seen) Well-meaning unix admins convince directors to go over to things like unix, not realizing that there are a GREAT MANY users that do more on their computer than browse the web and write in word. Running terminal services is not always sufficient, and can be VERY expensive.
    • that's neat anecdotal evidence.

      and then there are actual reports on city, state and federal governments saving money [newsforge.com] by switching to linux.

      I can say 100% firsthand that government offices are only as efficient as the people working for them, no matter how good the tool may be.
  • The thing is, they could have set up the tender and give contract to the lowest bidder. Or, like Dell, they could have said (each year) "Hey folks over at Intel, you're chargin' too much, we're gonna go AMD" and see a nice fat discount come in. Changing processors and hardware won't break much so these threats are realistic.
  • What? the Feds use Linux? Surely you jest sir. These bureaucrats are the same ones that allow Medicare to be billed $20 each for individual foil-sealed packages of aspirin. These people don't save money they spend your money for you in ways that even the most foolish American consumer would be hard pressed to emulate. Besides, who would want to use Linux when even Gartner says that Windows has a lower total cost of ownership and better performance than Linux *smirks*, and hey if Gartner says so then it must

  • In a past life I worked for a data processing equipment manufacture. Our top of the line machine had a direct competitor. The competition sold their competing model for about 10% - 20% less then we sold ours.

    In our office we had a salesman who sold to federal, state, city governments who had to deal with bidding. The law is that when bidding apples to apples the lowest bid must be taken. When the government makes a purchase, they write a request for bid, specify what they want, send it to all their suppliers and take the lowest bid amount.

    He had an "in" with his accounts and they all wanted our machine over the competition. However, with the competition selling for less, legally they were bound to purchase the lower cost alternative.

    The got around this in how they wrote the request for bid. They would take the manufacturing and option specifications for each machine and write the bid in such a way as to include items that only our equipment had.

    This could be a simple as including a second power switch that we had but the competition didn't have. I.E. Must be able to turn on/off equipment from either the front or rear. They would load the request for bid with such items so that the competition would not be able to quote apples to apples.

    When the bids returned, even though the competition was a lower cost, they could reject the bid because it did not include all the specifications listed. They could then purchase our machine even though it more expensive.

    The difference between the two machines were like Toyota vs. Honda. Both equally able to do the job. Strictly speaking, they should have taken the lower cost of the two. But when they had a preference they just worked around the bidding laws. It was common practice and common knowledge and that was 15 years ago.

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