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UK government plans switch from Microsoft Office to open source

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude plans to standardise on open formats to cut costs on Office suite and break 'oligopoly' of IT suppliers

The UK government can save money by not using products like Microsoft Office, says Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude
Microsoft Office costs the UK government significant amounts every year, says Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. Photograph: Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft.

Some £200m has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant's Office suite alone since 2010.

But the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to software which can produce open-source files in the "open document format" (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

Document formats are set to be standardised across Whitehall to help break the "oligopoly" of IT suppliers, and improve communications between civil servants.

The proposal is part of the coalition's drive to make its procurement more effective and efficient.

Speaking at a cross-government event showcasing new online services on Wednesday, Maude will say: "The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace.

"I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.

"In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information.

"So we have been talking to users about the problems they face when they read or work with our documents – and we have been inviting ideas from experts on how to solve these challenges."

Maude will add: "Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution.

"But be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall's lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn we will open the door for a host of other software providers."

Maude will also hail changes designed to increase the number of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) winning public sector contracts.

He will highlight the creation of CloudStore – an online marketplace for councils and other public bodies to buy software. Up to £10m a month is being spent on the site, with more than half going to SMEs.

Saying the proportion of central government procurement from SMEs has risen from 6% in 2010 to more than 10% now, Maude will add: "We know the best technology and digital ideas often come from small businesses but too often in the past they were excluded from government work.

"In the civil service there was a sense that if you hired a big multi-national, who everyone knew the name of, you'd never be fired.

"We weren't just missing out on innovation, we were paying top dollar for yesterday's technology.

"One great example of the potential from small businesses was when we re-tendered a hosting contract.

"The incumbent big supplier bid £4m; a UK-based small business offered to do it for £60,000.

"We saved taxpayers a whopping 98.5%. I don't think we can make savings of that scale everywhere but hard-working people expect us to try as hard as we possibly can."

Source : http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/29/uk-government-plans-switch-to-open-source-from-microsoft-office-suite?CMP=twt_gu&utm_content=buffer2c2db&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Munich open source switch 'completed successfully'



Munich open source switch 'completed successfully'

10-year project has been a success, according to city officials

By | | IDG News Service
522 295 40 135 7523 Article comments
Munich open source switch 'completed successfully'

Munich's switch to open source software has been successfully completed, with the vast majority of the public administration's users now running its own version of Linux, city officials said today.

In one of the premier open source software deployments in Europe, the city migrated from Windows NT to LiMux, its own Linux distribution. LiMux incorporates a fully open source desktop infrastructure. The city also decided to use the Open Document Format (ODF) as a standard, instead of proprietary options.

Ten years after the decision to switch, the LiMux project will now go into regular operation, the Munich City council said in a document published on its website.

As of November last year, the city saved more than €11.7 million because of the switch. More recent figures were not immediately available, but cost savings were not the only goal of the operation. It was also done to be less dependent on manufacturers, product cycles and proprietary OSes, the council said.


"All project objectives were achieved and in some cases even exceeded," the council said. One of the goals was to migrate 12,000 desktops to LiMux, but in the end, the city managed to create over 14,800 LiMux workspaces for its approximately 15,500 desktops.

The vast majority of users and administrators have been familiar with the OS for a long time, the council said, adding that despite the migration of many thousands of PC workstations, the city government always remained operational.

The city also managed to develop a form management system called WollMux, which includes numerous features such as templates and letterheads. WollMux was released as open-source software and shared with municipalities, companies and private individuals, the council said.

Munich's deputy mayor, Christine Strobl, said in the announcement that with the project's success and the sharing of results and solutions with the public, the city took an important step toward more openness and independence from individual software makers.


Source : http://www.cio.co.uk/news/change-management/munich-open-source-completed-successfully/

Munich distributing Ubuntu Linux CDs to combat Windows XPocalypse


Open source operating system offers safe haven from the impending hacker free-for-all

By | | PC World
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Munich distributing Ubuntu Linux CDs to combat Windows XPocalypse

The German city of Munich is turning to an unlikely saviour, Ubuntu Linux, to combat the Windows XPocalypse - which is set to unleash hell on April 8, 2014 when Microsoft ends support for the operating system.

Both security experts and Microsoft itself have warned that the impending end-of-life date for Windows XP could spark a hacker holiday, as the still-popular operating system will stop receiving security patches to plug vulnerability holes. Microsoft went so far as to warn that people who continue to run Windows XP beyond April will forever suffer from zero day exploits that could harm both your PC and spread to infect your friends.

Microsoft's solution, naturally, entails upgrading to a new version of Windows or picking up a newer PC. Munich's solution is much less costly: The city plans to distribute 2,000 Ubuntu Linux installation discs via the Gasteig library, giving its citizens a no-cost solution to the Windows XP conundrum.

Ubuntu, like virtually all Linux distributions, has a small footprint and should work just fine on the types of older systems frequently found running Windows XP. The minimum system requirements for Ubuntu is 64 megabytes of RAM (though 512MB is recommended) and 5GB of storage space.


Munich won't provide official support for the discs it hands out, though the version being distributed is Ubuntu 12.04, a long-term support release, rather than the newer, yet shorter-lived Ubuntu 13.04. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is guaranteed to receive updates and security patches until April, 2017.

Seriously: Windows XP users should abandon the ship before the ship goes down, and Ubuntu Linux is a great no-cost option for casual users.

Ubuntu Linux is one of the more popular Linux distributions around on account of its silky-smooth installation and fairly flat learning curve. The OS comes preloaded with a bevy of helpful open source software (like Firefox, the Thunderbird email client, and the LibreOffice productivity suite) to ease the transition even more.

Source : http://www.cio.co.uk/news/enterprise-apps/munich-distributing-ubuntu-linux-cds-combat-windows-xp/











NHS tears out its Oracle Spine in favour of open source

The UK government's quest to get public services to use more open source technologies seems to be taking hold, judging by the revamp of the NHS's very large Spine service.

The upgrade from Spine to Spine2 will see the NHS shift the core of its main secure patient database and messaging platform from Oracle onto a bevy of open source technologies including the Riak datastore, Redis, Nginx, Tornado, and RabbitMQ, along with some proprietary technologies like Splunk. Riak developer Basho announced the plans on Wednesday. This also sees it enlist a Brit IT contractor named BJSS to help with the rollout, as opposed to a much larger mega-consultancy.


"While this [use of open source] is now fairly common practice at the application tier, the ability to have a resilient, distributed data storage tier on the same commodity hardware makes a significant contribution to the cost efficiency of this solution," Mark Pullen, chief software engineer for BJSS, told El Reg via email.

Spine2 is built on Spine, which was one of the two successful components built under the disastrous NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) boondoggle.

Spine supports patient programmes like Choose & Book, Electronic Prescription Service, Summary Care Record, and others. Spine2 will build on this to become a system that all other NHS services are designed to be able to hook into and use for communication and data storage. It is being designed to hold some 90 million patient records, and support 200,000 users.

The shift of Spine from a closed-source proprietary project managed by BT to one dealt with through a bevy of open source technologies fits with the Department of Health's IT Strategy called The Power of Information which mandates the adoption of open standards to increase interoperability and interconnectivity between government services.

Spine2 will involve a "complete redesign of the hardware, software and code," according to the NHS.

The redesign has been done both to bring down the cost of the deployment, and also to increase the flexibility of the system to make it easier for third-party suppliers to test against and offer complementary services to Spine.

It will use Riak for data persistence; Python, redis, RabbitMQ, and Tornado for its application layer; Ubuntu, HA Proxy, NGiNX, and Puppet for modifying the infrastructure, and Mustache and Flask for presentation layers. Its principal development language is Python, with a bit of Erlang and Javascript, Pullen said.

The system will involve hundreds of processors running across dozens of "1U commodity servers running Linux and using dual Xeon E5-2430 processors" in multiple data centers, Pullen tells us.

Spine2 is due to go live in 2014, and when it does one of the largest backbone systems for NHS IT will be running primarily open source infrastructure technologies, and – for once – Brit tax dosh won't be going directly to one of the mega IT giants. ®

Free Regcast : Managing Multi-Vendor Devices with System Centre 2012

Source : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/10/nhs_drops_oracle_for_riak/?goback=.gde_43875_member_5802509560627347459

Open source observatory

Canton Bern: 'Tax-funded software must be made open source'

The administration of the Swiss canton of Bern has decided that, in principle, software developed by or for public administrations should be made freely available. Using open source software helps to reduce the canton's dependence on software vendors and in the long-term will reduce ICT costs, the Bern administration writes on 23 October. It has accepted a similar motion submitted this summer by six council members.

The government writes that, in procurement procedures, it wants a comparison of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of software solutions, including licence costs, management, maintenance and training. It also suggest to give extra points to those service providers that respond to a call for tender with an open source solution.

The Swiss canton's administration cautions that it does not want public administrations to compete with software vendors. It refers to protest by a proprietary software firm based in Bern to last years' switch by the canton's Justice Department to OpenJustitia, an open source document management system developed over the past years by the Swiss Federal Court.

"The government is of the opinion that the provision of open source by public administration is politically acceptable in those cases where there is not already a suitable proprietary solution. The absence of such a solution is an indication that the administration's software requirement is a niche, uninteresting for the private sector."


The Bern government has not decided what to do if publicly funded software solutions threaten proprietary alternatives. It is waiting on the outcome of a recommendation being prepared by the Federal Office of Justice.

The decision by the canton is a response to a motion submitted on 11 June 2013. It calls on the Bern Canton to make its software solutions available as open source. In a statement published yesterday by /ch/open, a Swiss organisation advocating open source and open standards, the council members welcomed the response. They expect that their motion will next be accepted by the canton council.

"A change of attitude towards open source software is underway", the statements cites councillor Marc Jost. "Given its tight financial situation, the canton recognises that open source provides a way to capitalise synergies with other public administrations."

More information:

/ch/open press release (in German)
Joinup news item
Joinup news item

Source : https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/community/osor/news/canton-bern-tax-funded-software-must-be-made-open-source?goback=.gde_43875_member_5801378666252361732

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