German Government Drinks to the Greatness of Linux

It's been nearly a month since the strains of the 175th Oktoberfest died down, but the reasons to celebrate live on. Behind the scenes at the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), the diplomats are toasting freedom — not with beer, but Open Source software.

The German Government — at all levels — has been a leader in adopting Open Source software for quite some time. The Bundesministerium des Innern (Ministry of the Interior) partnered with IBM to offer Linux systems to security forces in 2002, while in 2005, the state of Lower Saxony loaded up Red Hat Enterprise Linux to the tune of 11,000 boxen. The City of Munich opted to take its systems out of the proprietary loop in 2003, and despite delays, began its implementation in 2006.

Now the Foreign Ministry's former IT head, Rolf Schuster — now a diplomat at the German Embassy in Madrid — reveals that the Foreign Ministry has rolled out Linux desktops to half of the 230 German consulates and embassies worldwide, and that it plans to have the remaining sites converted by mid-2009. A grand total of 11,000 desktops are involved in the switch, which has been ongoing since 2004 — the move came after a three-year transition of back-end systems to Open Source software was successfully completed. Schuster said that the reduction in cost — a 66% savings over the average for other ministries — was the primary motivation for the change, though other agencies have cited increased security as a prime selling point.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the greatest difficulty in the implementation was the proverbial "problem between keyboard and chair": convincing the Ministry's 200 IT workers that the change made sense. Apparently, though, a swift sashay through Linux and Apache was all it took to bring them on board.

Special thanks to Linux Journal reader Chrystal Edwards for bringing this story to our attention.
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