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Glyn Moody

Glyn Moody's look at all levels of the enterprise open source stack. The blog will look at the organisations that are embracing open source, old and new alike (start-ups welcome), and the communities of users and developers that have formed around them (or not, as the case may be).

Kerala and Leipzig Move to Free Software on the Desktop

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A few weeks back, I wrote about the end of Windows XP having a galvanising effect on the use of free software in China. Of course, other parts of the world face the same problems of finding something to replace Windows XP, and others are also turning to free software, as here in India:

The government of the Indian state of Kerala has ordered all of its public sector agencies using Windows XP to migrate to free and open source (FOSS) operating systems by 30 June.

Nor is Kerala alone in doing so in India:

Since March this year, there have been moves across the Indian public sector to open source. The central government’s IT arm has encouraged agencies to switch to open source operating systems. Another state, Tamil Nadu, has told its departments to install open source operating systems.

A Migration Handbook [.pdf] provides more background on Kerala’s move:

the Government of Kerala embarked on its policy of migration to FS [free software] platforms several years back, and many departments have
already carried out this transition successfully. In fact, the Government of Kerala is credited as the first Government in the world to announce affirmative support for FS platforms in its state IT policy. Therefore, there is expertise within the Government system in Kerala to address the migration. icfoss itself has been set up by the Government of Kerala to provide support for, inter alia, such movement into Free Software platforms.

Secondly, some of the projects in Kerala have demonstrated large-scale movement to GNU/Linux. For example, the IT@School project is considered widely as the largest single-purpose deployment of FS platforms globally. Initiatives such as Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Calicut University and several others launched in Kerala in the last decade, are considered as significant achievements.

As that indicates, Kerala has been doing good work in this area for some time. A more recent newcomer is Leipzig, which has just announced its intentions here:

The German city of Leipzig is switching to using open source suites of office productivity tools: Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice. It expects that in the first five years the anticipated savings will be swallowed by the exit costs associated with the proprietary software used by the city. Starting in 2017, however, the city expects to lower its IT costs by some 100,000 euro, says Lars Greifzu, responsible for marketing and sales at Lecos, the city-owned IT service provider.

As well as those savings, there was another interesting impetus to make the move:

a second motivation for Leipzig to switch to LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice was a licence audit in 2010 by the IT vendor of the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. The IT vendor did not accept the licences registered and used by Lecos, and forced Lecos to pay a very high fine. “It seems that the licence model of the big software firms is aimed at raising turnover and profit”, Greifzu said in Dublin. "Worldwide, there are only a handful of persons that can understand and perhaps explain the licence rules."

Leaving behind such "licence audits"and the concomitant stress of dealing with the accusations that can follow is another good reason for moving to free software on the desktop.

Finally, here’s an update on another massive desktop migration project that has been running for many years:

the [French] Gendarmerie began its switch to open source ten years ago. It replaced its 20,000 copies of a ubiquitous proprietary office suite with 90,000 copies of OpenOffice, an open source equivalent. In 2006, it introduced Mozilla Firefox for web browsing and Mozilla Thunderbird for email, both as standard. In 2008 it deployed an initial 5,000 complete open source workstations, running Ubuntu Linux.

Those are obviously great results, but it’s important to be realistic:

the process takes time, is difficult and the full support of management is essential. "Fortunately, the open source desktop helps the head of IT to structure the IT organisation, saving time, efforts and money. What is important is not the choice you make, but the fact that you have a choice."

Wise words, worth bearing in mind by others considering large-scale migrations to open-source desktops, many of which are finally starting to come through in the wake of Windows XP’s demise.

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