China, the U.K., Russia and NATO are among the first participants in the program, while Microsoft is talking to more than 30 other countries about their interest in the program. Microsofts GSP move followed its concerns about the interest a number of foreign governments and agencies have shown in Linux. Last June, the German government said it was moving to standardize on Linux and an open-source IT model at the federal, state and communal levels.Otto Schily, the German minister of the Interior, said at that time that the contract with IBM enabled the administration to buy IBM hardware and software running Linux under competitive pricing conditions. "Linux offers the best potential as an alternative to Windows for server operating systems to reach more heterogeneity in the area of software. The fact that we have an alternative to Windows with Linux gives us more independence as a large software customer and is a major contribution to the economic use of IT in the administration," he said. The German governments move to IBM and Linux followed similar moves by more than 75 other government customers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force and Pinellas County, Fla., are all using Linux, as are agencies in the governments of China, Singapore, South Africa and Australia.
As part of this move, Germany signed a contract of support with IBM that would facilitate moving its agencies to Linux and the development of innovative IT solutions based on open standards.