MTRC says no to Linux

Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway Corp (MTRC) is currently drafting a five-year IT plan for 2000 to 2004, and aims to have it completed by September this year. Though details of the plan have not been disclosed, a company official did confirm that MTRC is not likely to deploy the Linux operating system in the near future.

"The plan will mainly focus on information systems, but office automation and the client/server platform will also be considered," said Daniel Lai, head of information technology at MTRC. "It's going to lay down the key IT direction that we are going to take in the next five years."

MTRC currently has a diverse server environment, consisting of VMS and Unix servers for running mission-critical information systems and applications that directly support train operations, along with Novell's NetWare and Microsoft's Windows NT for network connectivity and office automation. As for Linux, despite the groundswell of interest elsewhere, MTRC is standoffish.

"We haven't formally started evaluating Linux. But because it's free, definitely it will have a place somewhere (in the market)," Lai said. "Personally, I don't believe it would be suitable for an office environment (like ours) that requires office automation tools, Chinese support and an integrated development environment."

"In-house support is a major problem as well. If you're using a small support team in supporting 4000 users, you have to be very careful in choosing a product with which you have the least support requirements," said Lai. "Linux is more suitable for the labs and universities."

MTRC is planning to standardise its 4000-plus PCs on Windows NT Workstation, and expects to have the project mostly completed by the middle of next year. Lai said the company plans to evaluate Windows 2000, and expects the multilingual support to be of particular benefit to MTRC's multinational workforce.

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