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German City of Göppingen builds on open source software

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I would estimate that almost 30 percent of the software we are using (in administration and in 25 schools) is based on open source, Herbert Rettberg, IT manager at the German City of Göppingen said in an interview blog recently published by consultancy firm IT-Novum.

For future developments I will go with proven solutions, and do what's feasible rather than forcing it. We are currently working on introducing a Document Management System (DMS). Also on the agenda are monitoring services and software distribution.

Linux-based servers

According to Rettberg, open source software finds its way into government organisations mostly in the shape of Linux server systems performing all sorts of tasks:

  • file servers;
  • web servers for local intranets and XMMP messaging services;
  • mail servers as a replacement for Exchange, e.g. Zarafa;
  • MySQL databases;
  • PostgreSQL databases — used for our general school administration;
  • software for schools — we are using the PaedML standard solution from the Ministry of Culture;
  • proxy server for internet access control;
  • firewallssuch as FortiGate from the KDRS Stuttgart data centre; and
  • voicemail systems providing virtual answering machines.

Reliability

Contrary to common belief, free availability and low costs are not the main arguments for choosing open source, Rettberg said. For me, the reliability of the software comes first. I can set up a Linux proxy server in half an hour and I won't have to come back to it for the next ten years.

Rettberg thinks that there are no fundamental differences between deploying open source software in a government organisation and doing it in a commercial company. He does ackowledge, however, that private firms have an easier time during the acquiring process. In the public sector nowadays, you need help from specialists in the tendering and awarding, to make sure you don't make any mistakes and become the victim of an audit. Likewise, calls for tender are so complex that bidders are often deterred from participating.

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