Zimbra’s Olivier Thierry Talks Open Source, Government and Email at ATO 2014

We’re extremely excited to host Olivier Thierry, Zimbra‘s Chief Marketing Officer, at All Things Open 2014.  His presentation, “Why Governments Depend on Open Source for Secure, Private Email” was of such interest to us we asked him to give us a preview.  He kindly agreed and answered three questions, which are included below.  Olivier speaks on Wednesday, October 22 at 2:15 pm EST on the Open Government/Open Data track.

Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from and what do you do at Zimbra?

Originally, I am from Montreal, but now call Houston, Texas home. I have enjoyed a career spanning numerous companies in the technology space, and all of my recent positions have been as a marketing executive. Drawing on multiple aspects of my 30-plus years of experience, I have grown to love helping sales and product teams establish and grow unique brands.

For you personally, why open source and/or the open methodology/approach?

I believe commercially-backed open source provides improvements in three areas when compared to proprietary software: security, privacy and openness.

Security and privacy are among the most misunderstood aspects of open source projects, and many people think open source is insecure. As Linus’ Law described by Eric Raymond addresses, however, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Put another way, bugs are quickly fixed and their efficacy verified in the open source community. Collaboration between commercial backers and thebroader community ensures the integrity of security and privacy.

Openness is an important component of open source’s success, providing transparency and driving vibrant, collaborative developer communities:

  • Accountability and trust are beneficial emergent properties of openness. For example, third parties can easily audit code for bugs or verify the efficacy of a vulnerability fix, and ensure both the intended fix is in place and a new issue isn’t created.
  • Innovation is driven by the open nature of open source and it provides unique industries and businesses the ability to customize and extend platforms to best meet their specific needs. Compliance is a great example – to maintain HIPAA compliance, some healthcare organizations integrate workflow solutions into collaboration suites and overlay data encryption or two-factor authentication modules.

Your talk topic, “Why governments depend on open source for secure, private email,” looks fascinating to us. Why this topic and why should our attendees care?

Open source acceptance is increasing, including in government agencies; recently, the GSA established an open source-first policy. Email is the number one file sharing modality for government and business use alike, making security a priority for confidential and sensitive materials. I believe the same three reasons for implementing open source in general apply to the government.

Government organizations run on restricted budgets, and security is a constant concern. And, just like corporations, governments need privacy-enabling software. Whether employee data, citizens’ personally identifiable information or information subject to espionage (government, corporate or economic, data privacy is requisite for governments to function. Reliance on open source projects helps governments reduce expenditures on high-cost proprietary software and improve bug or vulnerability remediation timelines.

An example and area of intense interest is including collaboration and social technology integrations in daily workflows in a secure, private manner. Imagine user-friendly, secure file sharing that enables private attachments, data security and fine-grained access control in only a few mouse clicks. Also, this provides the Information Security and Information Technology teams (IS/IT) with control of data location, whether that is on-premise; in a hybrid, private or public cloud; or a combination. Between numerous software platforms and agencies, governments need interoperability. By exposing source code and application programming interfaces (APIs), agencies can bend software to their needs and not rely on vendors, which may have no commercial appetite for supporting the agency’s efforts.

Customization is also possible through similar means and is tremendously beneficial for agencies, especially those with niche needs. This ability to perform in-house software customization is less expensive and easier with open source than with proprietary software. This interoperability and customization can lead to a reduction of infrastructure and therefore complexity, all while delivering increased functionality, reducing costs and improving productivity and efficiency.

I saw recently that GitHub now has more than 10,000 active government users. This explosion of government users is birthing a vibrant open source community that will further open government and push the boundaries of innovation.