Realizing the best of both worlds: The value of using open source and proprietary software

Dr. Joseph Castle highlights the need for open-source and proprietary software solutions in today’s dynamic, multi-cloud environments.

Dr. Joseph Castle is the advisor for strategic relationships and open-source technologies at SAS after serving more than 20 years in the U.S. federal government. He spent time at the White House advocating for the open data policy and later led the U.S. federal government’s open-source program office, At the U.S. General Services Administration, he led many programs for the office of the Chief Information Officer and Technology Transformation Services, including standing up and leading GSA’s Digital Service team.

Whether sustaining legacy systems or acquiring modern applications—the U.S. government spends billions annually on IT. In its effort to cut back on software costs and to increase transparency among agencies and with the public, the White House released M-16-21 or the Federal Source Code Policy (FSCP), which stated agencies should release more of their custom-developed software and established a pilot program requiring the release of at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as open-source software (OSS). Soon after that, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched the website—a repository of agencies’ code and OSS that enabled government and non-government personnel to collaborate helping ensure the code was reliable and effective in furthering national objectives.

Nearly seven years have passed since the release of the policy and website, and despite the advantages, the government sector has not fully realized the potential of OSS. The FSCP and the website have become a missed opportunity for government leaders who have not effectively leveraged their communities to help them with software development.

The need for long-term government support
As the former Director of, where I oversaw agency implementation of FSCP and helped engineer the site, I saw firsthand how the federal IT community recognized the value of open source but often was unable to realize its full benefits.

A lot of the traffic and traction that received came from the science and space labs—from researchers who understood and could manage OSS. And while the government was bold in embracing the FSCP when it was first enacted, community support evaporated, and there was not enough buy-in as CIOs still needed something more that OSS could deliver, potentially control, security, and/or technical knowledge.

As organizations continue to move towards multi-cloud, zero-trust environments, using only one type of software, OSS or proprietary, limits potential growth—both are needed.

The best of both worlds: OSS and proprietary software
Both open-source and proprietary software have their advantages and disadvantages. OSS is often free and more customizable, but can be challenging to use and often requires specialized support. Proprietary software is often easier to use and comes with more support, but it can be expensive and difficult to customize.

The combination of both types of software can provide a more well-rounded solution that takes advantage of the strengths of each type. By using OSS as a foundation, agencies can develop customized solutions that meet their unique needs while leveraging proprietary software for mission-critical operations that require dedicated support and specialized features—without having to compromise on functionality or usability.

By taking advantage of the benefits of each type of software, government agencies can achieve cost-effective solutions, interoperability, security, customization, and community support.

Fostering innovation  
As technology continues to advance, government agencies must keep up with the latest solutions to deliver effective services. By working with partners like SAS, they can combine the strengths of enterprise software that provides advanced analytics with powerful compute capabilities in conjunction with OSS.

Agencies can use OSS and SAS together to create an analytics platform that unlocks the value of their data to enable informed decision-making in a timely fashion:

  • Ingesting and integrating data from various sources with OSS while using SAS to analyze and model data for a holistic view.
  • Customizing platforms to meet the unique needs of each agency via OSS and SAS software.
  • Having the ability to deploy SAS on different cloud platforms providing agencies with a highly scalable analytics platform that can be used to process mass data.
  • Leveraging the advanced analytics tools offered by enterprise software such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Promoting transparency and security of data assets throughout the organization.

By leveraging the strengths of both types of software, agencies can create a platform that is highly customizable, advanced, and built on OSS technologies. This will help agencies overcome the challenges presented by a multi-cloud environment while reducing costs, improving security and interoperability, and supporting innovation to serve their customers better.

Learn more about how SAS can help your organization take a hybrid approach to its software—achieving the best of both worlds.

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