IBM, Linux Make Inroads In Germany

Pact will smooth way for government to standardize on open-source it model.

The German government last week said it is moving to standardize on Linux and an open-source IT model at the federal, state and local levels.

As part of this move, the government signed a nonexclusive contract with IBM that will facilitate moving its agencies to Linux and help develop innovative IT solutions based on open standards.

Otto Schily, minister of the interior, in Berlin, said in a statement that Linux offers the best potential as an alternative to Windows for server operating systems. "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," Schily said.

An IBM spokeswoman told eWeek that IBM will deliver its eServer family pre-installed with Linux from SuSE Linux AG, of Nuremberg, Germany. IBM will also create an open portal, provide a consultancy hot line and offer test licenses.

Officials for Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., already a large software and solution supplier to the German government, said its relationship remains strong. They pointed out that the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and Microsoft Germany last year signed an agreement that allows the German public sector to buy Microsoft software at a discount.

Even John Sarsgard, vice president of IBMs worldwide Linux solution, in Somers, N.Y., agreed that theres room for more than one player, particularly in those areas where Linux is not as strong as some of its competitors.

"Our agreement does not provide a specific time frame for the German government to implement Linux and open-source solutions," said Sarsgard. "This is an open-ended agreement that is just the start of a very long journey for both of us."

Schily made clear that he is also looking for ways to raise the level of security of IT infrastructures in the public and private sectors under a framework of security partnerships. As such, the contract with IBM met 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.

IBMs Sarsgard said Linux security has generally been very highly regarded and has an excellent track record as a secure operating system.

A software engineer in San Diego, who requested anonymity, said that while Microsoft was telling the U.S. government that opening up its APIs would put the United States and its military forces around the world in danger from hackers and terrorists, the German government believes that Linux and open source would help it secure its computing systems.

"Strange, how can both be true unless Microsoft Windows is so prone to security holes that opening its APIs would show just how frail it really is? After all, if its got so many holes in it now, wont hackers and terrorists just keep finding them?" he said.