Swiss government opts for Suse Linux in server upgrades

The Swiss federal government has decided that it will use the Suse Linux distribution for more than 300 public sector servers as those systems are upgraded.

The Swiss government will switch to Suse Linux on more than 300 public-sector servers as those systems are upgraded, an official confirmed Wednesday.

The government currently uses Unix systems from IBM, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, plus various distributions of Linux, said Juerg Roemer, chief information officer for the Swiss Federal Administration.

The decision to standardize on Suse Linux from Novell Inc. was made using World Trade Organization rules for public purchases, he said. Red Hat Inc. was short-listed but "at the end, Suse was a bit better," Roemer said.

Cost was not a factor because prices were about the same from both vendors, he said. Savings will come from employees needing to master only one Linux distribution rather than two or three, he said.

The deployment of open-source software by governments is being closely watched in the standoff with proprietary software vendors. Governments have been more willing to accept supposed risks attached to open-source software than private businesses because of potential savings.

The Swiss government gives proprietary and open-source software the same chance when it is considering a purchase and decisions to go with one or the other are not political, Roemer said.

"We are analyzing the total cost of ownership," he said.

The transition will be made over a couple of years, and new servers will also be using Suse Linux, Roemer said. He estimated that government servers run more than 10,000 different applications.

The operating system on most of the country's servers is Microsoft's Windows, and it's more likely that Unix systems will be replaced first with Suse Linux, Roemer said.

One canton, which is the name of state entities within Switzerland, uses Linux entirely, Roemer said. Also, Apache servers running Linux provide much of Switzerland's Internet infrastructure, he said.

The value of the deal was not available since it's not known how quickly the upgrade will progress, said Peter Helfenstein, country manager for Novell in Switzerland. The government has not selected which of Novell's service partners will work on the change, Helfenstein said.

A "huge percentage" of Novell's revenue in Switzerland comes from the government, Helfenstein said.

The government's decision to commit to Suse Linux "is for us a great step forward," Helfenstein said. The move shows that Suse Linux is increasingly moving into the data centers of the federal government, replacing proprietary operating systems from vendors such as SAP, he said.

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