The European Commission has awarded UK-based consultancy netproject a €250,000 contract to study the issues of migrating government computers in member states to a Linux / Open Source environment.
netproject has been hired by the Commission to draw up guidelines on a move to open source technologies and to help define EU IT strategy on desktop computing. The German state of Mecklenburg-Pomerania
is to be used as a test bed in defining this strategy, which goes beyond the investigation of a switch between Windows and Linux PCs.
netproject plans to put forward an architecture for secure computing based on Linux in its report, which is due to be delivered in five months time, and will detail plans on how to take the project forward.
The consultancy won the contract largely on the basis of European interest in a pilot scheme to roll out Linux desktops with West Yorkshire police force.
The deployment is taking place under a contract awarded to netproject earlier this year by the UK Police IT Organisation, and if successful could cover over 60,000 desktops.
The approach and architecture of the system is what sets it apart, and sparked the interest of Brussels in doing something similar.
Eddie Bleasdale, a director at netproject, calls it the "Secure Open Desktop Architecture." The user-facing part of the West Yorkshire police system consists of an ultra low cost machine being supplied by the Telford office of Taiwanese company GCI, price £299, including a smart card reader.
The system, which can include legacy Windows systems, making it easier for customers to transition to open source. The clients themselves are 'stateless,' so a user can log on with their smartcard from any machine on the network, and get immediate access to their personal desktop, which includes Openoffice.
Bleasdale told us there was "more than just a passing interest" in this work when he met people from seven European countries who are working on how to deploy Linux for public administration.
Countries represented included: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and a representative from the European Commission.
The majority of delegates said that their main concern was the cost of ownership of their current PCs, Bleasdale told us.
Microsoft's recently introduced licensing changes have added weight to this concern but Bleasdale said an even bigger issue was the rate of change that Microsoft is imposing on customers, and many are struggling to deal with it. This calls for a major rethink in computing architecture, such as West Yorkshire Police have embraced, he added. ®
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