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Open source tour of Europe: GermanyMatthew Aslett, June 26, 2008 @ 9:12 am ET
To coincide with EURO 2008, I’m embarking on a virtual European tour, taking a quick look at open source policies and deployment projects in the 16 nations that are competing in the tournament.
It doesn’t matter what the competition is, or how well the team has been playing, when it comes to international football tournaments, Germany is always amongst the favourites, and the Germans are in the final once again despite a poor performance in beating Turkey 3-2.
Similarly, when it comes to open source adoption, Germany has a long tradition of leading the world. For example, a study of Linux contributors by Paul Jones of iBiblio in 2000 found that Germans were the second largest contributors.
“I am convinced that open source development can form the European base model in the information age,” stated the then German Secretary of State in the Federal Ministry for Economy and Technology, Siegmar Mosdorf, at LinuxTag 2000, signaling the federal government’s official support for open source software with the aim of cutting costs and improving security.
As is stated in the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review’s article Government Preferences for Promoting Open-Source Software: A Solution in Search of a Problem (PDF), the Bundestag passed a resolution in November 2001 to promote open source software in the federal administration, based on the principle that open source is a special opportunity for the European software industry.
That support was followed up in 2002 as the Federal Ministry of the Interior signed a deal with IBM and what was then SUSE Linux that would enable government agencies to get discounts on Linux systems.
Also in 2002 the KBSt (Coordination and Advisory Agency of the Federal Government for Information Technology) published two reports, Open Source Software in the Federal Administration and Linux: An Opportunity for More Software Diversity in Public Administration (both PDF).
A year later the government published guidelines (PDF) to help federal agencies, state and local governments, and other public-sector administrations migrate to open source software and announced that no fewer than 500 agencies had signed up to make use of the IBM discounts.
It might be easier to list the projects that do not use open source. In June last year Heise reported that 59% of German companies said they are using open source software, based on a survey by Actuate.
Federal projects include the Federal Finance Office move to Linux on the mainframe, the German Aerospace Centre, the Foreign Office (also here), Deutsche Bahn,
the Employers’ Liability Insurance Association, the Monopolies Commission, and German air traffic control. Additionally, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources is using the Ingres database.
Perhaps the most famous open source project of all is the move to Linux desktop in Munch. The city voted in 2003 to begin trials aimed at eventually moving 14,000 desktops to Linux and OpenOffice.org and drafted in IBM and SUSE Linux to help its efforts. In June 2004 it announced that the trials were a success and Munich would move ahead with the plan, which has a budget of €35m ($44m).
Given IBM and Novell/SUSE Linux’s participation in the trials it was widely expected that they would get the eventual contract, so it came as a surprise when Munich announced that two local suppliers Softcon and Gonicus had won the tender and would create the LiMux distribution based on Debian. The decision was made to ensure the vendor-independence of the project.
Despite delays due to software patent issues and additional testing, the project began in September 2006. Novell did eventually get in on the act when it was announced that Munich would migrate from NetWare to Open Enterprise Server as part of a supporting project. In May Munich announced that additional applications developed through LiMux would be released under the European Union Public License. More on the LiMux project can be found here.
Other local and regional authority deployments include Schwäbisch Hall, which actually preceded Munich, as well as Mannheim, North Rhine Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Heidenheim, Berlin, Treuchtlingen, Osterburg, Stuttgart, Frisia, Friesland, Freiburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and the German Alliance of Cities and Communes.
SUSE Linux may have been acquired by Novell in 2003 but its role in open source adoption projects in Germany is ongoing and cannot be overstated. The Open Source Barometer recently highlighted that while worldwide usage of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is double that of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise, in Germany, use of SUSE is four times that of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Following the acquisition by Novell many of SUSE Linux’s key executives are now at collaboration vendor Open-Xchange. Formerly known as Netline, the company changed its name in 2005 as it moved its headquarters to New York but retains its German identity thanks to its executives an operations in Olpe and Nurnberg,
Another vendor maintaining its German identity despite entering the US market is Linux server vendor Collax. Collaboration vendor Mindquarry came and went, while open source services firm Credativ is focused on expanding its presence across Europe. Special mention should be made for Synerpy which is taking on SAP in its own backyard with open source ERP.
And another thing:
According to a ZDNet report from 2004 on Schwäbisch Hall’s migration to Linux, the German council found the secret to overcoming user reluctance to Linux: “stuffed penguins and powerful women”.
As always we welcome your input. If you have examples of open source adoption in Germany that we’ve overlooked, please leave a comment below. For more stops on the European tour, see this post.
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