Sun makes bid for larger piece of government business

OTTAWA — Sun Microsystems wants a piece of the daunting project of reshaping the Canadian Government’s $5.2 billion in IT investment, but the technology solutions giant fears the government isn’t looking at all corporate options.


get their attention, Sun launched an aggressive lobby campaign in Ottawa this week where a meeting between Sun executives and government officials was meant to inform the government of the solutions Sun provides.

Sun says their cheaper licensing fees, centralized software technology and security updates, such as a Java smart card, can all work towards the government’s goal of improving and making services more efficient.

“”The government needs to find savings and improve the process,”” said Bernard Courtois president and CEO, Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), a lobby group of 1,300 IT companies in Canada. “”There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to break down the silos.””

Courtois didn’t point directly towards Sun, but said that all of his members are interested in helping the government achieve savings by winning contracts. He said the biggest challenge the government will face is to get departments to work horizontally and in cooperation with each other.

“”When information flows, accountability and efficiency follows,”” Courtois added.

This is all a component of the government’s Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) which looks at making federal departments more efficient and cost effective. On the technology side of the sweeping review, departments are asked to look to new IT developments to make government more accountable and better able to serve the public.

David Hurl, the press secretary for Revenue Minister John McCallum, the minister in charge of the expenditure review, said that all departments have been asked to trip 5 per cent from their budgets. He said that if this involves IT, it’s up to the individual departments to make the recommendations.

“”IT infrastructure and services need to be structured to enable a citizen-centric view and access to Government of Canada services, and to provide transparency with respect to costs and outcomes,”” Ken Cochrane, the chief executive of IT services at Public Works and Government Services said in an e-mail. “”Canadians and other government departments require improved enterprise-wide IT service delivery that is consistent and standardized.””

Cochrane has been quoted in the Ottawa Citizen as saying that barely one-quarter of government corporate services are shared. He said he wants to inflate that target to 75 per cent. This translates into work, and contracts, for leading IT companies that can deliver services.

Jacques Chartrand, regional manager of Sun Microsystems of Canada, said there are too many government departments offering the same services. Chartrand used the company’s Thin Client Sun Ray as an example where Sun can make a difference. Thin Client provides customers with an interoperable desktop computing solution that reduces the maintenance, upgrade, and operational costs associated with most fat PC client environments.

He also said the software for Thin Client all resides on the server, meaning that one person can upgrade server without having to go to each individual work station, saving time and money.

“”There are a lot of ways to look for alternatives (and) we can restructure and give cost benefit,”” Chartrand said.

His concern however, is that the government, when awarding contracts or looking to solutions, is wearing blinders. By using the Department of National Defence, a department as an example, he said he fears that the government isn’t looking at all options for contracts to IT companies. He said many in government are set in their ways and don’t look towards change.

“”You should open and house different company’s bids,”” said Chartrand. “”Maybe other companies can co-exist in a cheaper way.””

Another improvement, Sun officials said, is their Java smart card. The Java card enables smart cards and other devices with very limited memory to run small applications, called applets, that employ Java technology. This is widely seen as an all-in-one biometrics card.

“”The U.S. Marines all have this card because of security,”” Boisvert said, adding that the CIA and FBI are using the technology as well, for security reasons.

However, when a smart card is discussed, alarm bells usually sound for critics and protectors of privacy. Harry Hammitt a senior fellow with the Electronic Privacy Information Center in the U.S. is among the leaders in privacy concerns.

“”The technology always sounds attractive from an access point of view, to identify, follow and track,”” he said. “”The idea of government tracking is a major concern.””

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