Oracle says open source has no place in military apps

Unless it's open source from Oracle, of course


Oracle has popped out a white paper that may well turn some heads, because it contains robust criticism of open source software.

Titled “The Department of Defense (DoD) and Open Source Software” and available here as a PDF to those with Oracle accounts or here in Dropbox, the document's premise is that folks in the USA's Department of Defense (DoD) could think it is possible to save money if they “... avoid buying commercial software products simply by starting with open source software and developing their own applications.”

The paper goes on to explain why that's a bad idea and why paying Oracle for commercial software is a much more sensible thing to do.

The foundation of the arguments is that developing applications based on open source software has hidden cost, mostly in labour.

It also warns that open source software may not scale. “Commercial software companies have developed highly refined methodologies to perform these tasks,” the document suggests. “Don’t underestimate the difficulties associated with testing open source software and incorporating required changes into the main development stream, especially when it comes to testing for robustness and reliability under load”.

Oracle also argues that the DoD need not concern itself with integrating software into the world's myriad hardware ecosystems, again because it is hard to do and Big Red's already doing the heavy lifting. Another argument suggests it will be harder to certify open-source-derived projects as secure than it will be to buy a certified app from … guess who … Oracle. Or other software vendors.

Another skein of the argument asks whether it is appropriate for a government-funded organisation to work on open source software when private outfits like Oracle do it already, do it efficiently and do it in ways that meets the needs of many industries.

The paper's not blind to Oracle's own reliance on open source, noting the company's investments but insisting open source only makes sense when someone like Oracle takes the time to integrate it into wider hardware and software stacks. Big Red also asserts it offers better support than a DoD user could hope to provide itself or acquire elsewhere.

Overall, the paper is decently balanced, raising real risks associated with software development even if its tone, narrative and a section recounting problems with an open-source-based health records program open source all suggest strongly that development based on open source software is a silly idea for the DoD to contemplate.

The paper also contains more than a few passages The Reg imagines might lead open source advocates to take issue.

For example, a concluding section titled “The Proper Use of Open Source” offers the following advice:

“Oracle helps ensure that open source software fits well within the surrounding infrastructure and provides a route to enterprise grade production. However, for the intensive, mission-critical capabilities required by most DoD projects, Oracle recommends its flagship commercial software products.”

It should come as no surprise that Oracle reaches such a conclusion or that it makes the effort to put such a view into the public domain and the minds of DoD workers. The paper is also not terrible advice.

Of course it is not hard to think up rebuttals to the paper, not least the NHS' recent decision to ditch Oracle in favour of open source. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021