In the UK General Election fever the National Health Service (NHS) featured prominently with promises to find the £8bn in funding it will require in the next five years. NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens has also claimed he could find £22bn in savings by 2020, which means “efficiency” will remain a permanent fixture in the NHS lexicon. However, the former Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir David Nicholson, has suggested the NHS is facing a significant budgeting deficit.
Add to the mix the new government edict to government agencies to 'get rid of Oracle' and NHS will be under even more pressure to make changes. I want to champion the case for open source software to be part of the solution to the NHS’ budget challenges.
The election and the continued tightening of the public purse strings are forcing a significant rethink of attitudes about open source software. Old myths are being dispelled with genuine momentum in the adoption of open source software in central and local Governments across the UK. And it’s important to note that using traditional database vendors is no longer a guaranteed path to job security. Consider the famous flap in the United States, where Oracle and the State of Oregon are fighting a legal battle over a health care website.
The biggest argument used by traditional vendors - that open source software is not secure and reliable – has been dispelled. Every government IT official we speak to quickly realizes they can achieve everything they need with an open source database because they are as mature as traditional relational database.
In the U.S. EnterpriseDB works with more than a 100 government agencies, including many that maintain the highest levels of security. For example, we all know humans are the weakest link in IT. So we have built into our database role-based authentication, giving database administrators the power to ensure only the right employees have access to sensitive information. That’s just one example.
Additionally, in complex environments such as the NHS, information is being shared by multiple agencies in order to provide accurate diagnosis and support for patients. With so many different types of data stored in a patchwork of data management solutions, it is important for databases to support integration of both structured and unstructured workloads. Postgres integrates with data from a variety of data management solutions and EDB has invested heavily in development of Foreign Data Wrappers that enable integration.
Time to Embrace Open Source
Open source software has grown up to take on traditional vendors. According to the April 2015 Gartner report, The State of Open-Source RDBMs, 2015,* “by 2018, more than 70% of new in-house applications will be developed on an OSDBMS, and 50% of existing commercial RDBMS instances will have been converted or will be in process.”
Many public sector organizations have large existing investments in legacy systems to maintain, but open source is presenting a tangible and credible alternative to the costly and restrictive software purchasing models of the past. Organizations like the NHS are already leading the way in adopting open source and I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for many public bodies to follow suit, managing their expenditures and still committing to innovations in service delivery.
Marc Linster is Senior Vice President, Product & Services, at EnterpriseDB.
*The State of Open Source RDBMSs, 2015, by Donald Feinberg and Merv Adrian, published April 21, 2015.