While the UK government's plans for wider adoption of open source have been uneven in their application, the new beta version of the gov.uk web site should give proprietary software vendors and contractors pause for thought, as it is almost entirely built on or with open source.
The just published colophon
lists the components of the in-development site. Its Amazon EC2 hosting runs instances of Ubuntu 10.04LTS, with Jetty
as application server and Nginx
and mod_passenger as HTTP servers. Jenkins
provides a continuous integration service, Varnish
provides caching and configuration management is organised by Puppet
The code on the site is written mostly in Ruby, with either Rails or Sinatra providing the framework; the developers have organised a github repository
with the gems they have created and used to deliver the site. The one exception is the request router which is written in Scala. The developers began building the system with MySQL but have been moving over to MongoDB as they "realised how much of our content fitted its document-centric approach". For geocoding, the developers use MySociety.org's MaPit
from fonts.com. One other notable exception to the use of open source is in collaboration tools; the developers use Campfire for team chats and Google Apps for documents.
The wider design and development goals of the gov.uk site were introduced by Tom Loosemore, project leader, in a blog posting
in which he writes about how the developers aim to "deliver simpler, clearer, faster services for users and savings and innovation for Government". Gov.uk is destined to replace the DirectGov web site and the designers have taken 667 of the things citizens need from government, based roughly on what DirectGov handles, and reformed them to be more "findable, understandable and actionable".
The beta of the service was only given the go-ahead in August 2011
when lessons had been learned from feedback after creating an alpha version
of the site; that also used a lot of open source
. The budget for the beta gov.uk site is £1.7 million which the project says it is currently running under. (Source