Bergen's CTO: Why we moved to Linux

Bergen's CTO: Why we moved to Linux

Summary: The second largest city in Norway is moving its servers to Linux. We chat to Bergen's CTO on the practical business of going open source in public

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The City of Bergen recently announced plans to migrate many of its servers to SUSE Linux. We spoke to the city's CTO, Ole-Bjorn Tuftedal, to get his take on why Norway's second-largest city was making the move.

What made you initiate the change?
Most of the major Norwegian cities have economic problems, so it's always important to us to see if we are delivering our services in the best possible way. We had several of our systems and server platforms reaching the end of their support life, and we needed to do something about them. We were looking at moving to 64-bit platforms, and moving from proprietary processor architectures to Intel, so after some reviews and lot of studies we saw that Linux was an interesting alternative, it's reached maturity and stability in comparison to many other systems. We are doing a server consolidation project. We've got Oracle running on HP-UX and then will go on to look at our network servers, mail servers, DCHP, many of those which are already running on Linux, but may be running on different versions - so we are consolidating all of them partly to new hardware and to SUSE Linux.

Can you give me an example of the kinds of applications that students and citizens will be accessing with the new system?
We can roughly divide our infrastructure into administration and education. The administration is the standard one for the city employees, so all databases for the system used by the city administration, including health care, are included in this. Depending on how we count, there are between 20 and 30 servers that we hope to migrate to approximately ten HP servers. For the educational networks, we have 32,000 students and pupils, first through tenth grades, and up until now we have 100 schools, and each has had its own NT server. We are moving this, which is totally decentralised, to be centrally managed from our computer centre running on IBM blade servers. We are moving across server applications for students, which will be things like email, home directory, filing and print services, and Web services. The network is standardised on NT 4.0 with Windows 98 clients; we are moving to Linux servers and Windows 2000 clients.

Presumably the replacement of 100 Window applications servers with 20 Blade servers is the area where you'll reap the most benefit in terms of cost and convenience?
I am not sure yet where the main cost savings will be: we have done a couple of pilot studies with a couple of pilot schools, but we haven't done the main project so we still don't know all the costs. There are several different areas of cost reduction: we reduce the number of servers, which in itself is quite major, we centralise the management from 100 locations down to two boxes in a data centre, and of course there are reduced costs for server OS licences. We have achieved reduced cost for our support contracts, we expect to have a thorough evaluation in the autumn, when we will compute all the different aspects. On paper the savings are considerable, but we don't want to give away numbers.

What sort of ROI over what period are you looking at?
Due to the great reduction in complexity, I would expect the server investment to have quite a short-term payoff, but we are also replacing 2,000 to 3,000 PCs, which is a major cost in all of this. But then teachers and students get much better services. For example, each class has had only one shared email address in common -- but now each student will get an individual address that they can keep for the 10 years that they're in school.

Were you concerned about service and support?
It's important to get it, but we weren't in any doubt that we could get support, as we have already made agreements through several of the companies delivering us servers, and there are also several companies specialising in servers in general and Linux in particular.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

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5 comments
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  • Life is silly in Linux land. Stick with windows if you want stuff to work without spending hundreds of hours "configuring"
    anonymous
  • Its good to see common sense has prevailed. Theres much more to Linux than its low price - namely real security that just works and excellent stability with uptimes in excess of a year. Its utter madness to waste such huige amount of money on buggy, unstable, inferior and insecure products from Microsoft.
    anonymous
  • To McSpank,

    How did you become an IT Manager ?
    Statements like that are blatantly ignorant.
    anonymous
  • We have had similar experiences albeit on a much smaller scale. Our migration to Linux started about 7 years ago when we moved from dial-up Internet access to a dedicated IP line. We were already using Netware for our LAN infrastructure and simply required Linux to serve as a gateway between our LAN and the Internet.

    From humble beginnings as a simple router, with an email gateway, more and more functions are migrating to Linux simply because the tools are there and readily available. The argument that you need to learn a new OS and need to spend resources configuring a system simply does not hold water in my opinion. You need to know the nature of the beast whether it is Linux, NT, Netware etc. You need to configure your servers regardless whether it is through a pretty GUI or by editing a text file. If you are relying on Windows 'wizards' to configure a server rather than actually knowing what you are doing, then you shouldn
    anonymous
  • I guess in some situations it makes sense. Is this the sign of a wave? First Munich, now for the world!
    anonymous