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Open source advancing at Dutch defence ministry

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The Dutch Ministry of Defence is increasingly turning to free and open source ICT solutions, including for its workstations. One of the governments' largest ICT projects, a proprietary enterprise warehouse system (Speer) for the armed forces runs on Suse Linux servers. Open source is also used for the tiniest of systems, such as a usb-key offering staffers a secure private network by using a tailored version of Ubuntu Linux.

Open source is available on all workstations at the navy, army and air force (totalling some 42 000 employees). On its PCs LibreOffice is installed alongside a ubiquitous proprietary office suite. Other open source desktop utilities include mind mapping tool Freeplane, web browser Firefox and virtual private network solution openVPN.

"To allow a gradual switch from proprietary to open source solutions, we implement the two alongside", a spokesperson for the ministry comments. And in its larger ICT contracts, the ministry specifies that it intends to switch to open source solutions. "We oblige our service providers to cooperate in such a migration."

Cost-effective

The Speer project, building a new system to provide logistic and financial planning and reporting services for the armed forces, is one of the Dutch governments largest and longest running ICT projects. The project was started by the defense ministry in 2000. The overhaul of its warehouse system is planned to be completed sometime in 2014 and the ministry reported in May last year that the total costs for Speer are now over 400 million euro.

In size the other extreme, the usb-key private networking solution developed by the army itself, contains a security-enhanced and stripped-down version of Ubuntu. It allows Defence-staffers to access applications and information over a secure private network. One of the components of the solution is PolarSSL, a cryptographic library intended for embedded systems, developed by Offspark, Dutch IT-security specialists.

Carbon emissions

The 'Telestick' usb-key project was nominated for an innovation award by Accenture, an IT consultancy, in November of last year. According to information from the Ministry of Defence, Telestick was developed as a secure and low-cost solution, avoiding up to 30 million euro a year in costs. In an interview with Dutch IT news site Computable, that same month, general manager for IT at Ministry of Defence, Adriaan Blankenstein, explained that the usb-key helps to reduce costs for maintenance, IT, travel, housing and even helps to lower carbon emissions.

 

More information:

Telestick Accenture Innovation Awards
Defense ministry's internal magazine (2010)
Press release on OpenVPN and PolarSSL (2011)
Defense ministry's internal magazine (2011)
Interview with Defense ICT director (2012)
Computable news item (in Dutch)

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