Using open source software and avoiding proprietary products is the only way to structurally prevent vendor lock-in. This principle has once again become clear from two procurement announcements recently published on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED), the public procurement journal of the European Union.
A single supplier...
In one announcement, the water and sewerage department (VAV) of the Norwegian capital city of Oslo has to explain why it had to invoke an exception in procurement law to directly extend a framework contract (worth EUR 636,000) with a specific supplier for four more years, without any prior call for competition. According to the announcement, there is only one tenderer who can carry out the services and there are no equivalent services that can be offered by another supplier. The reason for this is that the Gemini products are proprietary software, with the supplier having the sole rights to software applications and source codes. The sole rights also mean that there are no other consultants than the supplier Powel who can offer assistance in Gemini products.
According to the announcement, the Gemini software is used by VAV to document the pipeline network and customer enquiries, and the application has become vital to the department. The announcement also states that the department is currently migrating to a more open standard, but that this change is considerably more demanding that expected and may take another four years.
... versus easy migration
The other TED announcement is from the Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP), which is looking for a supplier to provide a new acceptance and production environment for the national blood bank portal. This involves a four-year contract including migration of the current platform to an external hosting party, maintenance, training and support.
The FAMHP specifically asks for expertise in Red Hat Linux, Java, Tomcat and MySQL, all of which are open source software technologies. Any responsibilities for licence management and licensing fees lie with the supplier as part of the contract. This open-source-based setup gives the agency maximum freedom in moving its portal platform from one supplier to another — even when custom-made components are involved — because each supplier is in principle able to rebuild the technical environment for this application.