Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 16:09:06 -0400 From: klaatu
Subject: DC's New Cronyism Wastes nearly $50 Millions on Y2K! Newsgroups: dc.general,dc.politics,dc.org.linux-users In two seemingly-unrelated articles in the _Washington Post_ of 28 August 1998, we see separate threads elaborated, which taken in conjunction indicate not only the depth, but the wastefulness, of the New Cronyism in the Government of the City of Washington, DC. In a letter to the DCFRA Control Board, former Chief Technology Officer Michael T. Hermon reports that, after his refusal to award a non-bid contract worth $50 millions, he was fired by the Chief Management Officer's interim deputy. In the article at page C1 of today's _Post_, Hernon is reported as writing: "My attempts to ensure a proper, legal and ethical procurement for a multimillion-dollar contract were at odds with the wishes and direction of [the CMO's] office and directly resulted in my being fired ... I have never awarded a no-bid contract in my professional career and I wasn't going to start with $50 million for EDS ... I hope this information is helpful to you in your investigation of improper contracting practices." CMO Camille Cates Barnett's interim deputy, Sheryl Dotson, has already come under fire for a contract worth more than $800,000 which was cancelled by outbound Control Board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer. It was clearly a violation of both city and Federal laws which state that contracts worth over $500,000 must be awarded only on the basis of open competitive bidding. Dotson, whose Texas firm is a subcontractor to EDS, reportedly interfered with the GSA's bidder-selection process. The GSA had been acting as the District's procurement agent. Reportedly, after Hermon pressed for a resumption of open-bidding, EDS, denied as sweetheart-deal, declined to bid in competetition. In the end, the contract, for Year 2000 services for the District, was awarded under appropriate and legal circumstances to IBM, Inc. The full-scope and detail of the contract awarded IBM for Year 2000 emergency services was not detailed. It should be noted here that by appointing the GSA as the agent of the District, bidders who were listed on the District's Bidders List, but not on the GSA's bidding list, were excluded from consideration, denying many of the region's small specialty firms the opportunity to provide their services. We wish to note at this point that we ourselves had provided, direct to Mr. Harmon's desk, a position paper and offer of services. Among other things, we pointed out that the Linux Operating System is not only free software, but also has absolutely no Year 2000 problems. Quite possibly most of the operating system and software problems for which the City will pay millions for a solution, could have been easily solved by a switch to Linux, at minimal or no cost. Hardware upgrades, required in most (if not all) of the City's intel-architecture PCs, could probably have been had for far less than half of the contracted costs, had not the GSA been selected as the city's agent, excluding most small local hardware and integration vendors. and leaving procurements agents at the mercy of corporate monoliths with huge staffing overheads and inflated GSA schedules. Some might question whether Linux, running on "Y2K-ready" Intel-architecture platforms could meet the needs of a variety of small-to-medium-sized government agencies. NASA seems to think so. In an article  on page A23 of today's _Post_, there's a discussion of how very inexpensively NASA has been able to build a supercomputer capable of searching out hackers and other intruders, by analyzing files at a rate of 2.4 gigabytes per second. This supercomputer was built from of-the-shelf components for $56,000, according to NASA Inspector General Roberta L. Gross. In recent years, NASA, having undergone massive downsizing and budget cuts, has learned how to get the most for their money. The supercomputer is composed of a rack of 25 dual-Pentium Linux boxes (total, 50 processors). This isn't just _any_ Linux network, however, this is a Beowulf cluster . The specially-modified Linux software is freeware and is available for download over the Internet . Linux was developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Center for Excellence in Space Data and Information Sciences . Beowulf Linux Clusters can provide mainframe performance at a slight fraction of the cost of mainframes. For instance, sustained performance of 10.9 gigaflops was reported nine months ago, with 121 processors crunching an n-body gravitational simulation . This 121-processor cluster, if built today, might cost about $90,000, a miniscule fraction of the cost of a mainframe with similar speed. NASA is quite pleased with the performance of Linux, as its standard very-UNIX-like look-and-feel is familiar to the various scientists and mathematicians whose experience on computers may have begun in the era of monolithic mainframes. It also has the advantage of being totally free of cost, with all source code published and available. As it comes complete with a state-of-the-art C/C++ compiler, the vast Internet resources of code - available from universities, the government, and the military - can be readily adapted for Linux, with little or no effort. Possibly the vast majority of new freely-distributed code is written with the Linux Option in mind. Increasingly, those who are sick of devoting over 60% of their computing costs to software licenses are turning to Linux, which has the right price for schools, universities, research facilities, and law-enforcement.  We believe, and have repeatedly stated, that the District of Columbia must in the future take into account the capabilities of Linux, and in particular must take into consideration the cost-savings inherent in the Beowulf Linux Cluster approach to mainframe computing needs. All parts are off-the-shelf and are thus readily upgradeable as technology advances, the software is free and is the de-facto standard "flavor" of UNIX, and from NASA*, no bidding will be necessary as the price for mainframe power sufficient for almost any agency is available for less than $60,000, and it ships 100-percent Y2K-ready. If someone wants to take out their calculator and add up how many District agencies could use this sort of mainframe power, I believe that they'll find that it would cost considerably less than the $50 millions which would reportedly have been charged by EDS, as alleged by the District's former Chief Technology Officer. My calculator, assuming that 20 agencies need a 50-processor array costing $50,000, shows a cost to the city of a mere million dollars, all in hardware costs. With the savings, they could hire top talent to organize training for lesser talent and install/configure specialty software, and the District would be 100-percent Y2K-compliant for their central computing needs... possibly with enough money remaining to completely replace all of their other Y2K-unready PCs. It's your tax dollar. NASA Inspector General Gross is reported as calling the Beowulf Linux Cluster "almost embarassingly" cheap. The Post notes that she says the concept of an inexpensive supercomputer remains entirely outside of the awareness of large departments which routinely budget millions, for what can be had for tens-of-thousands, of dollars.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1998-08/28/074l-082898-idx.html  http://beoserv.hq.nasa.gov/about/index.html  http://beoserv.hq.nasa.gov/linux/index.html "Extreme Linux 5.0b"  http://cesdis1.gsfc.nasa.gov/beowulf/  http://beoserv.hq.nasa.gov/press/hpcwire_article-2.html  http://www.latimes.com/HOME/NEWS/CUTTING/lat_linux0824.htm * Only the Beowulf Cluster enhancements are from NASA/CESDIS and assorted other contributors. Linux itself originates with Linus Torvalds, with literally thousands of other contributors to the applications base, under the Free Software Foundation's GNU Project. -- Be kind to your neighbors, even though they be transgenic chimerae. Re-transmission of this e-mail expressly prohibited. Non-UseNet re-transmission of this article is a willful violation of US Copyright Law and the Berne Convention. Statutory damages are $250,000.00 Whom thou'st vex'd waxeth wroth: Meow. http://earthops.net/klaatu/ A Followup Article.