by Carrie Mathews

Lessons from 3 CIOs at Open-Source Campuses

Sep 01, 20052 mins
Open Source

Lev Gonick, VP of IT services and CIO at Case Western Reserve University, notes that almost everyone in academia is using some form of open source, but he advises caution. “Adopting an open-source strategy means the difference between managing vendors and managing ourselves. I would rather manage my vendors,” says Gonick, also cochair of the CIO Executive Council Higher Education Committee. When considering open-source tools, Gonick recommends taking a good look at things such as TCO, security and hardware requirements, just as with a purchased product. “Curb your enthusiasm and put open source through the same rigor as a vendor proposal,” he says. Gonick leaves the door open to adopting select open-source products in the future and salutes one of the main tenets of the open-source initiative: “collaborative sharing in the pursuit of knowledge.”

Golden Gate University CTO Anthony Hill started looking at open source in 2000. “I made the business case by citing the advantages that we would experience—cost savings and adherence to the new IT infrastructure being put in place,” says Hill. Today, he uses open source in many ways, including website architecture, general application architecture, content management and network monitoring. The technology is highly flexible, and Hill has found that working with open source has made his five-person development team more productive. Why has higher ed become an open-source hot spot? Hill says that in a cost-driven environment such as academia, there is pressure to build a lot of advanced capabilities on a small budget. Also, the higher-ed community has a strong propensity to collaborate and celebrate innovation.

Curt Pederson, CIO at Oregon State University (OSU) and the Oregon University System, and Scott Kveton, associate director of the Open Source Lab (OSL) at OSU, started the lab in February 2004. “OSL combines the many aspects of open source that we are involved in: use on the back end, development projects for OSU and hosting,” says Kveton. The university has invested $500,000 in the OSL and reaped $2 million in savings. One of the OSL’s more high-profile relationships is its hosting arrangement with AOL spin-off Mozilla. Pederson credits the adoption of open source as key to recruiting and retaining IT talent. Acknowledging that the open-source leaders of tomorrow are in the classroom today, Kveton created the curriculum for and will teach the first open-source class offered in OSU’s computer science department this fall.