DOD Takes to the Open StarOffice

A key Pentagon agency has picked open source code.

A key Pentagon agency has picked open source code.

The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency announced last week that it was adopting 25,000 copies of StarOffice 5.2, a set of desktop applications that Sun Microsystems has released as open source code.

The agency, which manages computing, communications, and command and control for the Department of Defense, specified an application suite that could run on a variety of desktops, including Linux, Solaris, Windows and other forms of Unix. DISA operates 10,000 Unix workstations worldwide in 600 DOD subunits, said Gina Centoni, senior director of marketing for the Webtop applications group at Sun.

StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation graphics and database applications that are mostly compatible with Microsoft Office. StarOffice is offered free to developers by Sun under the General Public License (GPL).

Government interest in open source programs, such as StarOffice, "definitely put the General Public License on Microsofts radar," said Tim OReilly, president of computer book publisher OReilly & Associates. Much open source code — such as the Linux operating system, which competes with Windows — is issued under the GPL. The National Security Agency uses Linux, and is working to determine whether a secure version of Linux can be adopted, OReilly said.

OReilly said some government agencies have begun to specify that GPL-licensed products should be submitted in response to requests for bids. "If the government started making that a requirement, it would put Microsoft at a competitive disadvantage," OReilly said. He said Microsofts fear of the governments interest in open source is one reason for the companys current targeting of open source in remarks by Craig Mundie, senior vice president at Microsoft, and the exclusion of open source in Microsofts Mobile Internet Toolkit license.

After evaluation, StarOffice emerged "as best satisfying our requirement to operate an open office productivity suite" under multiple operating systems, said William C. Hoppe, a DISA official.