“Open source software adds strategic value to Digital India”

shubhendu

Shubhendu Parth | November 19, 2015


Amarjeet Manchanda, Director - Consulting Services, Red Hat India
Amarjeet Manchanda, Director - Consulting Services, Red Hat India

In order to ensure transparency and efficiency, the government has mandated the use of open source software (OSS) in all e-governance systems implemented by various government organisations. In an interaction, Amarjeet Manchanda tells Shubhendu Parth how Red Hat India is propogating the adoption of OSS among various government agencies to deliver citizen-centric services. Excerpts.

India is planning to launch open source operating system – Bharat Operating System Solutions or BOSS. What role is Red Hat playing in this?

Red Hat has been working very closely with various government agencies in India to propagate the adoption of open source software (OSS) for citizen-centric services and e-governance initiatives. This strong collaboration resulted in successful adoption of OSS and Red Hat technologies in government projects like UIDAI, CRIS, land records and MyGov. The engineering level collaboration between Red Hat, NIC and CDAC has also helped in overcoming the language barrier for IT adoption by introducing 20+ Indian local language support across OS and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Python/Perl) Stack. We will continue to collaborate with the agencies for adoption of newer OSS innovations.

How do you rate India’s policy to adopt open standards for government procurement?
The policy is in line with global trends on OSS adoption. The emphasis on open source by the government is a reflection of a change of focus where IT is less about acquiring intellectual property via a licence, and more about widely distributing the tools and adding value on top of it. This paradigm shift has enabled decision-makers to start thinking beyond small “procurement” windows, to viewing open source from a broader vantage point that highlights its broad-based benefits to an economy.

India has made OSS mandatory for all new e-governance applications and new versions of legacy and existing systems. Is it not anti-competition?

The government of India seems committed to making standards that help in making things interoperable, by virtue of which reforms on open document format and various other standards were initiated. This removes potential lock-ins created by propriety solutions and fully supports any changes at desired points through the application lifecycle. Besides, this also helps in reuse of code which can integrate with legacy solutions. There will still be organisations that would prefer to continue using closed-source software (CSS) options.

But the government’s stand that organisation and solution providers need to justify use of CSS automatically puts it at a disadvantage…
In CSS or proprietary software, the copyright holder has exclusive legal rights and the source code is closed or not shared whereas in OSS, there are no such limitations. There are many governments around the world using OSS as it provides scalability while optimising the use of their limited financial resources. Adoption of OSS definitely reduces the dependency on CSS or proprietary software, provides strategic control, helps in avoiding vendor and technology lock-ins and allows the use of in-house skills and support from OSS communities to modify the source codes according to specific requirements.

While the requirement to justify the use of CSS does benefit OSS, it is important to understand that the objective of the policy is to ensure that both the options are compared and the best possible solution adopted. The objective of the policy is not to narrow down the opportunities for closed source software companies but instead it is to ensure that both CSS and OSS options are properly evaluated. The policy will also help speed up the implementation of e-governance in the country and help in achieving the vision and objectives of the Digital India programme.

So what benefit does OSS or Red Hat bring to table for projects like Digital India and Smart City?
The new policy that mandates use of OSS for e-governance applications has added strategic value to the Digital India drive. The OSS policy will also guide the solution approach for Smart City project. Red Hat with its wide enterprise ready open source solution portfolio which spans from operating systems (OS) to  virtualisation and cloud, software defined storage and middleware is ready to deliver the best of the open source technology at a significant lower TCO (total cost of ownership). At the same time it also helps achieve security, robustness and compliance that the solution demands. Red Hat is working closely with the system integrators and service providers to help them build and architect the IT solution framework using OSS and Red Hat technologies.

What is the percentage of government and public sector business for Red Hat in India?
Globally, Red Hat registered a year-on-year growth of 13 percent. The company posted revenue of $504 million in Q2 FY 2016 (ended August 31, 2015), its 54th consecutive quarter of revenue growth. In 2015, 15 percent of Red Hat bookings came from the Asia Pacific, with the bulk of them (74 percent) being infrastructure-related offerings.

What about India? Major projects…
In India, one of the public sector companies that Red Hat supports is the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) that supports nearly two million passengers a day covering over 2,500 trains nationwide. It has to handle a workload of 25,000 concurrent users during peak booking periods. The deployment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the underlying infrastructure for mission-critical systems has increased scalability to support online ticket bookings. It has also helped CRIS roll out a state-of-the-art journey planning system in the most cost-effective manner, and the shortest time to market. In particular, Red Hat solution has enabled CRIS to accept 10,000 tickets per minute and handle more than 200,000 concurrent users. This is a 400 percent increase over the previous system.

What is Red Hat doing on the cloud adoption in the government sector?
Red Hat works with agencies to identify where they may be able to make use of some of the company’s open source tools, including OpenStack and OpenShift products. The company’s Cloud for Government programme helps government agencies to save time and money, become more agile, and above all, makes it easier for them to take advantage of the powerful open source and cloud forces that are changing the industry.

India has a major thrust on mobile as the platform for delivery of government services. How ready is Red Hat to adapt and service to the new mobile infrastructure platform?
Our mobile application platform supports an agile approach to developing, integrating, and deploying enterprise mobile applications whether the apps are native, hybrid, or on the web. It also supports collaborative development across multiple teams and projects with a wide variety of leading toolkits and frameworks. The platform offers central control of security and policy management, ease of mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) integration with enterprise systems, and a choice of cloud deployment options. We have recently developed a new mobile software stack, the Red Hat mobile application platform (RHMAP) and have partnered with Samsung on this.

How is the FeedHenry acquisition helping Red Hat on this front?
Our mobile infrastructure service offering incorporates technology from the acquisition of FeedHenry with Red Hat’s JBoss Middleware and OpenShift platform as a service (PaaS) portfolio. FeedHenry’s cloud-based mobile app platform enables enterprises to support mobile applications at scale, a capability that Red Hat sought in order to support mobile app development in both public and private environments. FeedHenry is an important addition to Red Hat’s JBoss xPaaS for OpenShift strategy, providing a platform and services for mobile developers and applications.

Red Hat and Cisco are working together to create platform for IoT innovation. What is the status of the initiative?
Cisco has provided the world with technology to connect to one another for three decades. Now, they are aiming to connect all the objects that people have created. This will lead to the accumulation of significant volumes of raw data that one will have to process to gain actionable insights. This will require a new generation of applications. Cisco and Red Hat are collaborating to provide the ability for people to innovate at this application layer with OpenShift, our award-winning platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering.

The two companies have been collaborating on figuring out what the technology stack needs to look like in order to keep pace with information that will result from the networking of “things”. We have discovered some truly remarkable customer validated designs that we feel our customers will benefit from as they also seek out new ways to innovate. We have also incorporated many of Cisco’s requirements back into the OpenShift solution.

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