The data-exchange system uses open-source application server JBoss running on Red Hat Linux. It transmits 1.5 megabits of data per second between around 400 public institutions and the ministry, according to a Computer Science Corporation (CSC) report on open source.
Peter Henningsen, the data-exchange project manager at the Ministry of Finance, said the open-source combination was chosen over Microsoft's systems integration application BizTalk Server.
The main reason for the choice was cost -- the project budget was only two million Danish Kroner (around £183,800). Henningsen pointed out that JBoss is a stable platform, which was essential for the mission-critical application.
Prior to the project, a range of technologies were used for data exchange: CD-ROMs, FTP to a mainframe computer and replication between Microsoft SQL server databases. The purpose of the project was to unify the data-exchange systems and enable the exchange of XML formatted data.
Henningsen said there were various problems with the previous set-up, including problems with SQL Server replication.
"The SQL Server 7.0 set up was hard to operate and was sensitive to different service packs," he said.
The project took two years to implement and went live in August 2004. The data-exchange system takes XML data from internal and external ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle Financials and Microsoft Navision, and validates the XML data using the open-source Apache Xerces tool. The JBoss server, running on Red Hat Linux, takes care of the transactional exchange of data.
Reliable and transactional data exchange is essential as the system is used by many Danish government ministries, including the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice, to send financial data to the Ministry of Finance, which is then used to produce financial reporting data. The system is also used for payroll, budgeting and financial management within the Ministry.
Henningsen said that he has had no problems with the open-source solution so far. The main challenge has been satisfying the needs of customers from different ministries.
Future plans for the exchange system include moving more data streams to the new platform, implementing more adaptors for the data streams and adding administration functions to the application.
The exchange of data in XML format aligns with a Danish government initiative to use open standards. On the Web site describing this initiative it provides a document about open standards in three formats: Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word and open-source OpenOffice Writer format.