Skin game

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2005-04-29 Print this article Print

Kaiser Permanente wants to work with vendors who take software quality and safety "just as seriously as we do," Watson said. Watson said he wants to work with vendors "who have skin in the game with us." However, the current situation, he said, is that the medical system providers typically try to protect themselves with warranty provisions that minimize their potential liability for software flaws that might cause injury or death. Rather than standing by the products reliability, the warranties are written to "eliminate the downside, and I dont think that is a fair exchange of value," he said.
Aerospace technology producer Lockheed Martin is also a company that has a lot at stake both in the quality of the software that it develops and that it purchases, said Joseph Cleveland, Lockheed Martin CIO.
Lockheed Martin produces and maintains "more lines of code than Microsoft," Cleveland said. "The difference is that the product has to work because lives are at stake and missions are at stake," he said, referring to the many military flight and weapons systems his company produces. Cleveland said a major challenge is the amount of money he has to spend to protect Lockheeds systems from viruses and hacker attacks. "Its a difficult problem, particularly with the threat environment we are facing today," with the number of viruses and hacker exploits increasing each year, he said. Under such conditions it can be difficult to find money in the budget for new technology when the company is spending large amounts of money protecting and patching the software that it already owns, he said. All four CIOs on the panel said they are only in the early stages of evaluating or using open-source software technology. To read more about the changing roles of corporate CIOs, click here. Lockheed Martin hasnt done much with open-source systems because "we have to satisfy ourselves with the security and reliability" of the software, Cleveland said. For consumer products company Unilever N.V., open-source software "is just part of the menu," said Neil Cameron, Unilevers CIO. "We use it where it is appropriate" for relatively small projects, he said. But it hasnt become a "matter of economics" where there are compelling reasons to use open source, he said. When you talk to IT technicians about whether its a good idea to use open-source software, "they will either give you a million reasons why you should do it or a million reasons why you shouldnt do it," Cameron said. BP used open source-software to develop a system that runs in a small division in Iran that generates about $25 million a year in revenue, Leggate said. The company used open source to "absolutely adhere" to "American law and American pressure," not to transfer any strategic technology to Iran, he said. However, there is no other fundamental advantage to using open source over other available technology, he said. Operations in Iran, Leggate said, "are not remarkably cheaper to run than in another country." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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