The German government on Monday said it is moving to standardize on Linux and an open-source IT model at the federal, state and communal levels.
As part of this move it has signed a contract of support with IBM that will facilitate moving its agencies to Linux and help develop innovative IT solutions based on open standards.
Otto Schily, the German minister of the Interior, said in a statement released in Berlin on Monday 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.
An IBM spokeswoman told eWEEK that, under the terms of the contract, IBM will deliver its eServer family pre-installed with Linux from SuSE Linux AG, based in Nuremberg, Germany. IBM will also create an open portal, provide a consultancy hotline and offer test licenses.
Big Blue has long been touting a Linux and open-source model to the German government, which expressed a desire to move away from proprietary solutions to open source, the spokeswoman said. This is, however, a non-exclusive agreement, she confirmed, declining to estimate its value or say how long it will be in effect.
German Interior Minister Schily said that post Sept. 11, "I have taken the initiative to start discussions with a series of important representatives of the IT industry in Germany to look for ways to raise the level of security of IT infrastructures in the public and private sector under a framework of security partnerships."
The contract with IBM meets three key targets for the German government: "We raise the level of IT security by avoiding monocultures, we lower the dependency on single software vendors, and we reach costs savings in software and operation costs," he said.
The move will benefit not only the Federal Republic, but also the states and communities, which, for the first time, can now quickly and simply get hold of open-source systems, he said.
Erwin Staudt, CEO of IBM Germany, said common workgroups have been established that will help define suitable projects for the administration and prepare open-source software for practical use.
The IBM spokeswoman said the German governments move to Linux is just the latest of more than 75 government customers who are already using IBM Linux solutions.
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 and Australia.
"As part of a pilot using the Linux operating system, the FAA plans to use Linux for several key applications, including disaster recovery, network monitoring and troubleshooting, Web serving, file sharing, and data mining," she said. "These Linux applications are hosted by the USDA National Information Technology Center, with support from IBM Global Services, running on an IBM Linux mainframe and the WebSphere platform."
Pinellas County is using an IBM mainframe and WebSphere software running on Linux to create an index that houses more than 20 million entries for quick online searches, she said.
Mondays announcement follows just days after Linux developers Caldera International Inc., Conectiva S.A., SuSE Linux AG and Turbolinux Inc. announced they are working on creating a unified distribution that would herald a new era of standardization for the open-source operating system and could help drive it further into the enterprise.
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