The department today asked resellers for prices and proposals to supply a wide range of Microsoft software and associated services over the three years from March 2007.
"DECS proposes to enter into a three year Microsoft Campus and School Agreement with Microsoft," the department said in tender documents released this morning, noting an existing agreement with its current reseller would end in February next year.
The department requires "a Microsoft Large Account Reseller (LAR) to manage the supply of Microsoft software and deliver value-added services, thus providing an efficient and effective administration of the proposed agreement".
In addition, DECS expects Microsoft through the selected reseller to allow schools, preschools and corporate offices to be able to access the vendor's software at academic-style discounted prices.
DECS, like other education departments around Australia is one of the nation's largest users of IT. The department's IT operations are headed up by chief information officer Kay Nolte.
DECS currently has around 42,000 primarily Windows-based desktop PCs and laptops, with a "minor proportion" being Apple Macintoshes. The number of desktops is not expected to grow significantly in the next few years.
The new agreement will see the department gain access to an equivalent number of licences for key desktop and server software, with use cases including employee home access.
For example, DECS requires client access licences for popular Microsoft server products such as Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2005 and Exchange 2003, with the option to purchase additional server licences and other less well-known products like BizTalk Server and Visual Studio. Desktop licences required include Office 2003 Professional and Office 2004 Professional for Macintosh.
The move comes as both open source and Apple advocates have recently criticised the nation's education departments for what they see as a restrictive process locking out Microsoft's rivals from the purchasing process.
For example, Australian Mac User Group president Greg Sharp several weeks ago publicly attacked education departments on his group's Web site for what he saw as a changed focus to Microsoft platforms associated with cost-cutting exercises.
But at least one local technology magazine has recently reported that DECS also uses a wide range of non-Microsoft software, including technology from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Cognos.