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CIO  February 2009

CIO February 2009

Subject:

Re: Savings with Open Source (?)

From:

Stephen G Landry <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 14 Feb 2009 15:51:36 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (291 lines)

I've found this tread both interesting and informative.  Discussions like this help me, and hopefully other CIO's, shape the strategic direction of our organizations and are quite valuable.

Chris makes a good point that the choice between commercial and open source isn't simply the choice between license fees and adding developers; there's a range of options, and vendors such as rSmart provide services that enable campuses to find that middle way.  At Seton Hall University, we just went fully live on a new administrative system last year, and we're transitioning a largely legacy COBOL shop into a Web services shop.  Given our current organization, project portfolio, and now a hiring freeze, we frankly wouldn't have been able to get our Sakai project started without vendor support.

I didn't mean to imply that open source development was an "IT hobby" or that learning management software isn't mission critical.  I do think we need to distinguish between mission and mission critical.  We're a largely undergraduate, residential campus, so supporting our physical plant is at least as mission critical as our IT services, but we've increasingly outsourced the maintenance of our physical plant in order to control or reduce costs.

The commoditization of IT is inevitably moving up the application stack, and as it does our organizations will continue evolve; systems programmers will be replaced by application developers, who will be replaced by instructional designers, who will be replaced by instructional service providers (tutors, graders, librarians, special needs counselors, assessment coordinators, etc., who will provide "horizontal" services to multiple course sections through the learning system).  High quality software is going to be a crucial enabler that will allow our organizations to move "up the stack" and truly transform student learning and our organizations.  While we may be in a good spot right now to add value to our students through software development, we do need to ensure our strategies are sustainable as our organizations (and the overall IT ecosystem) continue to evolve.

When I became CIO in the mid 90's, one of my personal hopes was to make it to retirement before the role of the CIO in colleges and universities became obsolete.  I'm about fifteen years from retirement, and I believe the need for the role is a strong as ever, but it has changed considerably in the past fifteen years, and it will surely evolve ever more rapidly in the next fifteen.  These discussions are particularly helpful in that they give me insight into the trajectory the role of IT I'm likely to take in the next fifteen years.  I look forward to continuing the dialog in this and other venues.

Steve

Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.
Chief Information Officer
Seton Hall University
South Orange, NJ 07079
Office: 973-761-7386
Email: [log in to unmask]
Web: stephenlandry.com

For the latest news from SHU IT, see the IT News and Announcements blog at:  http://tltc.shu.edu/blogs/projects/DoIT/

For the latest news on teaching and learning, see the ePirate blog at:  http://tltc.shu.edu/blogs/projects/epirate/


-----Original Message-----
From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Joseph Vaughan
Sent: Friday, February 13, 2009 2:59 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CIO] Savings with Open Source (?)

To sharpen Chris's point #4, and again avoid an "overly thin diet of
examples" (I think that's a phrase similar to one from Wittgenstein),
the range of things that institutions (large and small) can contribute
goes far beyond writing code: testing, quality assurance, documentation,
development of use cases for new features...  And all of these are
things that one does, to varying degrees, whether the product is one
that is open source or proprietary.

Joseph Vaughan
CIO/Vice-President for Computing
and Information Services
Harvey Mudd College
[log in to unmask]
909 621 8613

free/busy info at http://tinyurl.com/vaughanfreebusy




Christopher D. Coppola wrote:
> Thanks Stephen, for the welcome. Joseph, I also think Stephen makes a
> very important point about the long-term viability of these projects
> focused on the education domain. Personally I have a lot of confidence
> that they will prove to be be far more sustainable than the model
> where one organization is responsible for a product. But there is
> plenty of work ahead to ensure that, and so a healthy degree of
> concern is appropriate to remind us that we haven't "proven it" yet.
>
> Stephen, there are a number of things that give me some confidence:
>
> 1. A minority % of institutions in higher education have always
> undertaken to develop their own "home grown" solutions to key business
> systems like Sakai and Kuali. This has persisted through hard economic
> times in the past and I wouldn't expect it to change.
>
> 2. These *are* mission-critical systems that these institutions are
> depending on. They aren't "hobby" projects for IT.
>
> 3. We're getting good enough at collaborative development that the
> long-term cost to those institutions will actually decrease from when
> they endeavored to build them alone. Brad Wheeler and some of the
> other Founders of Kuali express this as "outsourcing four fifths of
> their development."
>
> 4. The model for peer development is also creating opportunities to
> aggregate the contributions of many institutions with varying
> capacity. It's not only the large institutions making significant
> contributions to these projects. Many smaller institutions like Marist
> College, and San Joaquin Delta College are making significant
> contributions. I expect that as we continue to improve our peer
> production skills this will continue to increase and we'll achieve
> significant resilience to the impact of one institution having to
> cease their contribution. We've already seen this kind of resilience
> in the Sakai community.
>
> I hope others will help refine my understanding and beliefs as we
> continue the dialog.
>
> /chris
> --
> rSmart
> Chris Coppola | 602.490.0472
> blog: coppola.rsmart.com
>
> On Feb 12, 2009, at 12:54 PM, Joseph Vaughan wrote:
>
>> There are so many dimensions to this conversation. Stephen points to
>> a real worry, especially if the domain of examples includes only open
>> source software that is built by higher ed institutions -- how many
>> institutions may be tempted, in these times, to discontinue their
>> Sakai membership dues or their developer contributions? But of course
>> the domain of examples needs to be bigger -- Moodle, for instance, is
>> not developed by an institution of higher ed (though the original
>> developer had connections to higher ed).
>>
>> I believe that "build or buy" is the wrong slogan to have in mind. It
>> is more like "buy or buy", and increasingly vendors and open source
>> proponents will need to compete, when they are competing, on the
>> quality of the product. Open source products will have an advantage
>> over time, because open source code is an additional (vital) part of
>> the quality of those products. I believe that this fact is a big
>> element in why we are seeing more and more companies make the
>> decision to open source their code.
>>
>> I too would welcome honest and open discussion from vendors.
>>
>>
>> Joseph Vaughan
>> CIO/Vice-President for Computing
>> and Information Services
>> Harvey Mudd College
>> [log in to unmask]
>> 909 621 8613
>>
>> free/busy info at http://tinyurl.com/vaughanfreebusy
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> Stephen G Landry wrote:
>>>
>>> Welcome aboard, Chris. I've enjoyed our brief conversations, and
>>> look forward to continuing them here and elsewhere.
>>>
>>> As you know, Seton Hall University is a customer of rSmart; you
>>> support our Sakai pilot project, enabling us to explore how Sakai
>>> can add value to our learning systems. My colleagues at Seton Hall
>>> enjoyed Stephanie's comments to this thread, and we've taken to
>>> calling our Sakai pilot "our puppy".
>>>
>>> I also want to be clear that I support the principle of open source.
>>> Openness is particularly important virtue when it affects the public
>>> sphere; if I had my druthers the software that runs electronic
>>> voting, for example, would by law be open source, so that the best
>>> minds of the software community could ensure its security and
>>> reliability, rather than the situation where vendors use legal means
>>> to prevent the analysis of this vital code.
>>>
>>> In these discussions I always seem to work my way back to a couple
>>> of mild worries I do have with open source projects in higher
>>> education. I worry about projects that run counter to my intuition
>>> of the economics of software development. There always is tension in
>>> our "build versus buy" decisions. I worry that our community's open
>>> source projects might underestimate the cost of the "build" option
>>> to the community as a whole. I worry that the cost is
>>> disproportionately born by a few large institutions that may at some
>>> point find it uneconomical to continue to do the heavy lifting. I
>>> worry that open source projects may be a overreaction to valid
>>> concerns we all have about dealing with our vendors and with the
>>> commoditization of IT services. I worry that software development
>>> may not be considered central to the mission of our institutions,
>>> and may be shed if budgets become tight.
>>>
>>> But of course I have different, but equally vexing worries about
>>> some of our major software vendors as well; I'm not trying to say
>>> that one approach is obviously right and another wrong, but rather
>>> that some of the delightful exuberance for higher education open
>>> source projects evident in these discussions may not be fully
>>> justified and should perhaps be tempered a bit. I personally urge
>>> cautious optimism in this and all things.
>>>
>>> In any case, welcome to the conversation. I look forward to your
>>> insights as one of the thought leaders in software development in
>>> higher education.
>>>
>>> As an aside, I, for one, would also welcome the appropriate insights
>>> of the thought leaders from some of the other vendors that support
>>> the missions of my institution - Sungard, Oracle, Blackboard,
>>> Microsoft, IBM, etc. - but I fear I'm in the minority here; many of
>>> my colleagues on the CIO list would probably prefer a strict "no
>>> vendors" policy. I just hope Theresa didn't get too many flames
>>> following your post.
>>>
>>> Steve
>>>
>>> Stephen G. Landry, Ph.D.
>>>
>>> Chief Information Officer
>>>
>>> Seton Hall University
>>>
>>> South Orange, NJ 07079
>>>
>>> Office: 973-761-7386
>>>
>>> Email: [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>> Web: stephenlandry.com
>>>
>>> For the latest news from SHU IT, see the IT News and Announcements
>>> blog at: http://tltc.shu.edu/blogs/projects/DoIT/
>>>
>>> For the latest news on teaching and learning, see the ePirate blog
>>> at: http://tltc.shu.edu/blogs/projects/epirate/
>>>
>>> *From:* The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv
>>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *Christopher D.
>>> Coppola
>>> *Sent:* Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:37 AM
>>> *To:* [log in to unmask]
>>> *Subject:* Re: [CIO] Savings with Open Source (?)
>>>
>>> Great expansion Scott. I got a few offline comments as well and a
>>> few people mentioned they'd like to work together on a common
>>> vocabulary / framework. Would you be interested in helping out if I
>>> organize a small group?
>>>
>>> Also, in the interest of full disclosure I should have been more
>>> clear in my first post that I'm a board member in several of the
>>> Kuali projects, just finished a term as a Sakai board member, and
>>> I'm the CEO of rSmart--a company that supports these projects.
>>>
>>> /chris
>>>
>>> --
>>>
>>> rSmart
>>>
>>> Chris Coppola | 602.490.0472
>>>
>>> blog: coppola.rsmart.com <http://coppola.rsmart.com/>
>>>
>>> On Feb 9, 2009, at 3:08 PM, Scott Siddall wrote:
>>>
>>>
>>> Chris Coppola makes an important point here, one worth expanding.
>>> Community source, like an ecosystem, derives stability from the
>>> diversity that includes producers, consumers, commensals and others.
>>> All are needed and players that don't fit will be selected against.
>>>
>>> Many small colleges make use of Sakai, Moodle, Drupal and DSpace and
>>> other OS applications without technical staff dedicated to the
>>> effort. (Some even outsource their use of open source, possibly for
>>> purposes of better cost accounting.) These institutions consume
>>> community source, they don't produce it, but they do contribute in
>>> other ways such as quality assurance, pedagogical innovation,
>>> expanding the reach of the community and more. Our models of
>>> inter-institutional collaboration should encourage this diversity in
>>> approaches; it can add stability.
>>>
>>> Scott
>>>
>>> _____________________________
>>> Scott E. Siddall, Ph.D.
>>> Kenyon College
>>> Gambier, OH 43022
>>> 740-599-6031
>>>
>>> http://sesiddall.com
>>>
>>> ********** Participation and subscription information for this
>>> EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at
>>> http://www.educause.edu/groups/.
>>>
>>
>> **********
>> Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE
>> Constituent Group discussion list can be found at
>> http://www.educause.edu/groups/.
>
> **********
> Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE
> Constituent Group discussion list can be found at
> http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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