The European Commission's IDABC unit responsible for the Open Source Software Observatory and Repository (OSOR) will publish it's own derivative of Debian GNU/Linux to provide organisations with an easy way to create blogs and forums, the unit announced on Friday.
A beta version of the distribution, called Fpfis (Flexible Platform for Internal Services) will be made available soon on the OSOR-website.
Fpfis was built by Digit, the Commission's data centre in Luxembourg, so that the webmasters of the Commission could respond to requests for modern Internet tools, avoiding the development of multiple applications for similar tasks. The system is being used to offer some of the European Commissioners their own blogs. Fpfis is also used for several forums on European policy issues.
"Open Source Software can be downloaded and used without the need for a public tendering procedure", explained Karel De Vriendt, head of the IDABC unit. "By using Open Source, our IT professionals can quickly respond to the wish of the Commission to use Web 2.0 technologies to interact with Europe's citizens."
IDABC recently decided to make Fpfis available to others. "There probably are many other organisations that want offer these Web 2.0 tools", said De Vriendt.
The Fpfis team is now preparing the distribution for publication on the OSOR website. This includes packaging for distribution over the Internet. They are also finishing the documentation to help with the installation.
"Internally, the Flexible Platform is based on Red Hat GNU/Linux", says Rosa Ordinana, one of the Fpfis team members. "To avoid issues with Red Hat trademarks, the version we offer to the public is based on Debian GNU/Linux." The team also replaced a few commercial products used in the internal configuration by Open Source equivalents.
"We will make the installation very easy", says Ordinana. "We hope this will make Fpfis more attractive to other administrations." She expects installation of the system itself to take 'a couple of clicks'. In order to get a blog published on the Internet, users will have to know for example how to configure a web server.
Fpfis offers several Open Source security tools such as Nagios and the backup-management application Bacula. Also included are the MySQL Open Source relational database management system, the Apache webserver and the Tomcat Java application server.
For the actual blogs of the Commissioners, the Fpfis team selected the Open Source application Wordpress and forum software phpBB. It also included applications to create wikis and organise web based polls.
In the public version of Fpfis, other Open Source applications will be integrated, such as the content management system Drupal and Idabc's collaboration application Circabc.
"We hope that soon after the publication of Fpfis, a community of developers will get involved in maintaining it", says Ordinana. What Open Source licence the modifications made by the Fpfis team will be made available under, has not yet been decided.