Auf Wiedersehen, Microsoft: Germany Signs with IBM

The German government has decided to move its federal, state and local agency IT systemsto Linux, citing reliability issues and a desire to reduce its dependence onMicrosoft.

Toward this goal, the country has signed an agreement withIBM, which will providerelated hardware, software and services to the German government.

“It is our joint goal to establish future-readye-government structures in theadministration of Germany,” said Erwin Staudt, CEO of IBM Germany. “It is indispensableto support Linux as a platform for those activities.”

IBM said it will deliver its eServers hardware preinstalled with Linux produced bySuSE Linux AG, a German company.

Security Concerns

Explaining why Germany has chosen to take the Linux leap, Otto Schily, Minister ofthe Interior of the Federal Republic of Germany, said in a statement that the country hasgrown more concerned about security since September 11th.

Linux is seen by some to be more secure and reliable than other operating systems, sinceits underlying code is constantly under scrutiny by a legion of volunteer open-sourceprogrammers.

“A necessary precondition for [security] is the use of trusted systems, especiallytrusted software,” Schily said.

Linux Penguin Pride

European countries have favored Linux for a while and tend to favor localdistributors of the operating system.

SuSE is a hometown player,” Al Gillen, research director of systems software atIDC, told the E-Commerce Times. “If youlook at who’s distributing Linux, you’ll findthere’s a certain amount of affinity toward a product that’s produced locally. There’s acertain amount of nationalistic pride there.”

Gillen added that Linux also comes with a lower price tag than other systems, such asMicrosoft’s. Saving money, both initially and in the long run, is very enticing forgovernment agencies, he said.

Like their European counterparts, some U.S. entities have been eyeing Linux for similarreasons.

Big Blue’s Big Push

IBM has actively pursued government customers and already has such clients in China,Singapore and Australia. In the United States, the company has inked contracts with theDepartment of Agriculture, the Federal Aviation Administration, theDepartment of Energy and the Air Force.

IBM said it believes Germany’s decision is part of an overall movement towardopen sourcesoftware that will gain momentum in the future.

The company also said it believes that where government goes, business will follow.

“If you look at corporations today, you’ll see they have a heterogeneous environment,”IBM spokesperson Alise McNeill told the E-Commerce Times. “When you work with openstandards, it’s easier to integrate business processes. When you get locked intoproprietary systems, it’s more complicated to connect all the pieces and parts that comewith that.”

A recent IDC report gave weight to the theory that a Linux revolution may be imminent.The report stated that Linux is now the number two server operating system in the world,with about 27 percent of the market. Microsoft’s various Windows operating systems powerabout 40 percent of servers and most desktop computers.

Shutting the Windows

Once a customer of the Redmond, Washington-based software giant, the German governmentnow says it is ready to loosen its Microsoft ties.

Schily said Linux offers the best alternative to Windows, and adding that using opensource software will give the country more independence. He termed an environment ofMicrosoft-only products a “monoculture.”

“Germany is absolutely making a conscious decision to move from a proprietary-basedsystem,” McNeill said. “From Microsoft, specifically.”

Microsoft does not plan to bow out quietly, however.

An optimistic Microsoft spokesperson told the E-Commerce Times, “Microsoft enjoys a strongrelationship with the German government, and we look forward to helping it address itsIT needs in the future.”

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