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Open source's big German win: 300,000 users shift to Nextcloud for file sharing

Germany's federal government settles on an open-source collaboration system for employees.

Video: Microsoft plans to lure Linux distribution maintainers with new open-source tool.

The German federal government has chosen local private cloud and open-source file-sync operator Nextcloud as its collaboration and file-sharing platform for 300,000 government users.

Nextcloud arrived on Germany's tech scene in 2016 after Frank Karlitschek, co-founder of the open source infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud program OwnCloud, forked the software to create a more open-source model.

ITZBund, whose 2,700 IT admins run technology for about a million government workers, kicked off a pilot in 2016 with Nextcloud covering about 5,000 end-users with a variety of devices for which it needed to enable file-syncing support, including Windows, Android and iOS products.

ITZBund has rolled out a collaboration and cloud storage tool called BC-Box, which employees can use to move data to the cloud and access it. Nextcloud was able to deliver the required Outlook add-on integration to allow users to send secure links rather than file attachments.

Nextcloud won a tender for a federal secure file-exchange system in late 2017 to supply its services and support for three years.

See: Special report: The future of Everything as a Service (free PDF)

The company says it differs from public clouds offered by the likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft by offering customers local data storage.

"The subject of the procurement process was the construction of a private cloud for the federal government," an ITZBund spokesperson told Der Spiegel.

Nextcloud's Karlitschek said it offered better security than public cloud providers because "you can run our software in its own data center that you trust, and anyone can inspect the code, check for security vulnerabilities, anytime, anywhere and change if necessary".

See: What is cloud computing? Everything you need to know from public and private cloud to software-as-a-service

Microsoft has also been beefing up its presence in Germany, announcing in March new Azure regions in the country.

The technology giant previously set up its German data centers around the concept of data residency within the country through partnerships with local IT providers who act as German Data Trustees. The trustees decide whether or not to grant access to data stored in its data center.

The structure may offer Microsoft's customers protections from the recently signed Cloud Act, which requires US firms to comply with warrants under the Stored Communications Act even when data is stored outside the US.

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