Migrating to desktop Linux? Take a look at Norway

Summary:Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has demanded evidence that desktop Linux is gaining ground: Norway's second city Bergen has the answer

Despite the positive evaluation of Linux, Bergen decided to initially migrate the school computers to Windows 2000 and MS Office 2000; however, the school servers are being moved from Windows NT to Linux.

Tuftedal says this staggered migration is down to practical rather than technical reasons. If the school had migrated to the Linux desktop at the beginning of 2004, pupils would only have had a couple of months to learn how to use the new system before exam time -- PCs are used in examinations in Norwegian schools. Also, as teachers need to use Windows desktops for administration tasks, extra work was needed to make sure staff did not have to learn how to use two different desktops.

Bergen is now addressing how to ease the transition for teachers by redesigning the desktop, planning a training programme and is also considering allowing teachers to access the administrative software through thin clients.

Once the schools have been migrated to Linux, Bergen is planning to move all city employees to Linux, says Tuftedal. He expects this migration to start in 2006 and says it will probably take longer than the school migration, as there are a number of important applications with dependencies on the Windows desktop or MS Office.

Bergen is not the only Norwegian city government looking at Linux. Sarpsborg, a small city in the southeast of Norway is already using 100 percent Linux, according to Tuftedal. Other city governments are likely to move in the future, in particular the large cities which already have Unix skills that are quite easy to transfer to Linux.

"A lot of cities in Norway think about Linux or open source software," says Tuftedal. "They may be more or less willing to do this - it depends on their resources, the size of their IT department and whether they have in-house Unix skills."

Despite Microsoft's claims that Windows outperforms Linux in Unix migration scenarios, Tuftedal claims Windows has only recently caught up with Linux in terms of scalability.

"Microsoft's marketing has been ahead of the capabilities of its software, in particular considering problems of scale," he says. "It fitted the scale of small and medium business rather than the larger enterprise. If they have caught up it has only been in the latest versions -- initially software such as file services and the exchange server weren't scaled for the enterprise."

2004 wasn't the year of the Linux desktop, and given current rates of uptake it's unlikely that 2005 will be either. However, what is certain is that if more organisations follow Bergen's lead, Steve Ballmer may need to be a lot more cautious about asking for evidence of the open source OS challenging his company's desktop monopoly.

Topics: Developer

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