Big in Europe

A recent poll of European Union local governments shows increasing adoption of free and open source software. Indeed, uptake of the Penguin is happening everywhere, albeit quietly.
Two weeks ago, my Internet service provider threatened to sever my connection, claiming that one or more machines on my home network was spewing more spam than Hormel. Incredible, impossible, I said — until I realized that my daughter had been running Windows XP again to play the latest Sims 2 expansion. Sure enough, the machine was filthy with trojan horses, viruses, and spyware, even malware that disguises itself as anti-viral software. After several hours of cleaning, my ISP blessed the machine, and a major crisis (No Internet!) was averted.
I’d like to say the moral of this story is” Never run Windows XP”, but that advice, albeit practical, is a little radical. Still, I hang my head in utter disbelief that countless viruses affect vast numbers of Windows machines, cost untold hours of lost productivity day-in and day-out. The financial expense has to be staggering. One wonders if Microsoft counts those dollars and cents in its calculations of total cost of ownership (TCO).
Indeed, according to a poll conducted in the European Union,” Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Policy Support” (http://flosspols.org/deliverables.php), Microsoft’s accounting can surely benefit from a healthy audit. The survey queried 955 local European governments to measure the scope and impact of using open source software. Some of the results: license fees accounted for 20 percent of IT budgets, a numbered deemed too high by respondents; 49 percent of governments report” intentional” use of open source software, while an additional 29 percent used Linux, MySQL, or Apache, but were unaware that those utilities were open source.
More striking is the finding that”[ open source] users administer 35 percent more personal computers per IT administrator than non-users – FLOSS[ Free/Libre and Open Source Software] use appears to reduce administrator workload per PC, and IT departments with high workloads are more likely to want a future increase in FLOSS use.” As further evidence of pleasing returns, 70 percent of open source users want to increase its deployment, and a full 20 percent of those users want to move to open source completely.
So, while IT departments incur the ardor and expense of migrating from Windows to Linux, once that effort has been expended, call it an opportunity cost, the costs taper off dramatically and yield a good return on investment. Mind you, the survey found that all-Linux infrastructure is very rare. Municipal IT departments apply Linux and open source opportunistically — although it seems that more and more opportunities are made for open source alternatives.
Interestingly, that sentiment — that Linux sneaks in on little penguin feet and becomes more pervasive — was echoed in a conference call I had with Linux start-up Centeris (http://http://www.centeris.com/) just days ago. Centeris is in the business of making Linux and Windows cohabitate peacefully. Specifically, the company’s software, (funded and created by a bunch of ex-” Microsofties”) allows a Windows administrator to configure and tweak Linux servers from the (relative) comfort of his or her Windows console. According to Centeris, license fees aren’t an issue for its clients; instead, its clients find Linux to be better suited for certain services.
Whatever the motivation, it’s clear that Linux and open source adoption continues to accelerate. As the EU poll illuminates, there’s also a” snowball” effect once Linux gets rolling. But what else would we expect? Our mascot is a penguin.

Martin Streicher is the Editor-in-Chief of Linux Magazine. He’s programmed, managed, and used Unix and Linux systems for more than twenty years.

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