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Big Strides For Civic Linux

It should come as no surprise that the Linux industry has been targeting the government sector. In a string of wins for the open source operating system, Munich, Germany, and Bergen, Norway, both announced that they would be officially migrating to Linux.

The Indian city of Bangalore may not be far behind, as IBM announced that it was setting up a Linux Centre of Competency to help facilitate Linux adoption.

Munich has been a high-profile Linux migration story since it began its test case with Linux last year over its current Microsoft Windows-based systems. It was widely reported that Microsoft head honcho Steve Ballmer himself visited the German city to plead his company's case against the open source upstart.

The project, known officially as LiMux (Linux for Munich), was approved by Munich's city council yesterday and is expected to migrate a total of 13,000 desktops and servers by 2008. The migration will partially begin this year with the adoption of OpenOffice.org office suite and the Mozilla Web browser running on the jurisdiction's existing Windows NT desktops.

According to Tom Adelstein, Linux and open source consultant, the Munich decision is a failure in the Microsoft political machine.

"It makes a similar statement about Microsoft, as does the EU's decision to fine Microsoft for anti-trust violations," Adelstein told internetnews.com. "The Munich voters represent a large body compared to cities in the U.S. This was more of a popularity contest than a technical decision.

"I would not call it a win for Linux as much as a defeat for Microsoft," he said.

Norway's second largest city, Bergen, is also migrating to Linux in a move that is anticipated to ultimately impact 50,000 users. The migration involves IBM, HP and Novell/SUSE in a multiphase implementation strategy that will replace existing UNIX HP-UX servers, as well as Microsoft Windows application servers. The migration is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

"In addition to the IT-based benefits from migration to Linux, we attain a business model that doesn't tie us to a single vendor's solution architecture," Janicke Runshaug Foss, CIO of Bergen, said in a statement. "By migrating to Linux, the city of Bergen has a business model that is open and democratic, and we believe that will ensure a greater degree of freedom of choice, more efficient operation and major cost savings that will benefit the citizens."

According to Stacy Quandt, principal analyst at Quandt Analytics, the decisions underscore shifting market dynamics.

"These wins are very significant because they go against the urban legends that customers will not migrate their desktops to Linux," Quandt told internetnews.com. "These wins also highlight that the desktop is Microsoft's last stand for dominance."

"Governments on a global scale are effecting policies that mandate the use of open-file formats and transparency, which will drive the use of open source software," she said.

IBM's Linux Centre of Competency in Bangalore, India, is a part of Big Blue's efforts to facilitate Linux/open source adoption in the world's largest democracy. The Linux Centre provides for Linux product and application certification, as well as facilities for consulting, support and solution development.

"We believe [the Linux Centre] will rapidly facilitate development of new Linux based solutions for governments, academia and commercial customers in India," said R. Dhamodaran, vice president and country executive of the IBM Software Group, in a statement. "The Centre will also offer our technology vendors and business partners a key opportunity to play a significant role in the worldwide Linux community."

IBM currently operates similar Centers of Competency in Austin, Texas, Beijing, China, Boeblingen, Germany, Moscow, Russia, and Tokyo, Japan. The Indian Linux push follows an IBM initiative in Brazil, announced last week, to help foster open source adoption in that country.

Other governments and jurisdictions around the globe have been publicly pondering and adopting Linux and open source technologies, sometimes with mixed results. Back in April, Calgary, Alberta, Canada officials revealed that the city was migrating much of its infrastructure to Linux, as well, though it admitted that its desktops would remain on Microsoft Windows.