The Manx turn from Unix to Windows

The Isle of Man is ditching Unix and shunning Linux as it moves its infrastructure from a heterogenous environment to Windows

The Isle of Man Government is to standardise on Microsoft's Windows platform, ditching its existing Unix operating systems and choosing to not go down the Linux path that has attracted some high-profile public sector wins lately.

Allan Paterson, director of the information systems division in the Manx government, said the move was a "strategic position" with no overarching contract, but just an intention to standardise on the Windows platform over the next five years.

"We could change that tomorrow, we’re not locked down. This is a relationship rather than a hard contract."

When Paterson came to the job, he said, he was struck by "the number of products we had in the same space, each requiring different support skill sets. We had the kind of scenario where a department would phone up a third party supplier for a quote on application outsourcing one week, and another department phoning up a week later for the same thing would be offered a different platform."

Now, the Sun, Novell and SCO UnixWare servers spread across 140 locations will make way for windows Windows Server 2003 running on Unisys ES7000 and Clearpath servers in two data centres. There were many reasons for the move, said Paterson. In the case of SCO, it was that different suppliers would provide different versions of the software, making management a huge headache.

On the desktop, said Paterson, the government had only just finished upgrading to Windows 95 in 2003, but had "all sorts of compatibility problems." Now he is upgrading to Windows XP, with Active Directory.

Asked why other desktop solutions were not considered - such as Star Office - Paterson said he was looking for more than just an office suite. "We wanted a complete management solution around the desktop. This is about service delivery, availability, reliability of desktop services."

"I am a technical person," continued Paterson, "but this is not a tech decision. It is a business decision. Too often it is presented as a technical decision, but really it is about the wow you give to the end user at the end of the day."

Because the Isle of Man is not part of the UK -- it is a self-governing crown dependency that is able to make its own laws -- purchasing decisions can be made independently of the UK's Office of Government Commerce, which recently issued report promoting the consideration of open-source software in the public sector. "We're not covered by the Office of Government Commerce guidelines on procurement. I don't have to look at open-source software every time. I can say, "Guys. we have all these Windows skills, let's go this way. We don't have to comply with UK targets, but we can learn from the UK."

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