The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) in Canberra is considering dumping Microsoft Office in favour of open source software for 3000 staff, according to a request for expressions of interest.
Singling out Microsoft for special mention, the document states the department is currently seeking information from vendors on "specifically an open source office personal productivity suite that could replace its Microsoft Office Suite in the Desktop environment".
In terms of the scale of the potential project the document states the open source software must work in "an enterprise distributed environment with up to 3000 users spread across offices located in Canberra, the six states and a number of regional centres throughout Australia".
Specifications for the open source desktop - which must be Citrix Metaframe-compliant - include office suite functionality like Word processing and spreadsheet, in addition to project planning, Web development, and database reporting applications.
Vendors are also being asked to provide cost projections, particularly "likely costs associated with such an enterprise-wide change".
A more telling part of the document reveals the department is scoping for a suite of "Open source products that would cover the basic functionality of the Microsoft Office suite of products but not necessarily all the complex functionality of those products".
Also mentioned is the option of "other specialized products" in addition to "a basic office productivity suite" in the event that the department requires more complex functionality.
Other requirements for an open source desktop software rollout include file compatibility with Microsoft Office, staff training and support, and security implications.
One possible contender for consideration is the popular OpenOffice.org open source suite, widely regarded as a tangible competitor to Office.
Jacqueline McNally, OpenOffice.org's marketing project lead, welcomed the department's move, saying the most crucial point of the request for expressions of interest is it sends a message of "tell us how to do it with open source".
"Most organizations that have done [Microsoft to OpenOffice.org] migrations find that a huge percentage of employees have all the functionality they need," McNally said. "Only one or two users need the functionality of Microsoft Office and that typically relates to the spreadsheet."
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company encourages customers to evaluate all software options based on value for money and fit for purpose.
"We are confident that once those evaluations are made, customers will choose Microsoft's value proposition," the spokesperson said.
No stranger to open source, the Department of Veterans' Affairs reported infrastructure and support cost savings after migrating distributed server workloads to Linux on the mainframe more than two years ago.