Sweden’s insurer: open source…

Sweden’s insurer: open source maximises IT efficiency

17/05/2016
CTO: Preferred suppliers offer flexibility, not lock-in

Open source’s inherent flexibility maximises IT value, says Mikael Norberg, CTO at Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan). Thanks to free software licences, information technology can be used effectively. Last year, Försäkringskassan completed its transition to open source in its data centre in Sundsvall, “driving down costs while increasing IT value”, the CTO says.

This summer, the Försäkringskassan will publish an update of its open source strategy, first defined in 2014. New chapters will outline how the government agency will sustain the open source solutions it uses, and how it will share its code. “We want to contribute to code development, we need to be part of the communities”, Norberg told the Open Source Observatory (OSOR). “It would be nice if our IT staff members could contribute to key projects during work hours. However, this decision is not mine to make.”

The strategy should also make clear the value of being open, sharing data and solutions. Försäkringskassans is already publishing its IT work on the open.fk.se portal.

In 2014 and 2015, Försäkringskassan replaced a mix of proprietary server operating systems with Linux-based servers. The vast majority of the (Red Hat) Linux servers are virtual machines, except for those needed for managing the data centre. The insurer also maintains a few proprietary systems for running applications that do not support virtualisation.

Intimidating

Moving the enterprise applications of the proprietary systems was not difficult, says Norberg. “There were a few technological challenges. The biggest problem is dealing with the vendor of the proprietary database applications. The US company hates virtualisation, and will use everything, including threats, to maximise licence costs”, he said.

According to the CTO, open source has many advantages. Budget, previously sunk in proprietary licences, is now invested in new business solutions. With fewer proprietary software licence constraints, the life cycle of applications is easier to manage.

The CTO has three suggestions for others considering a move to open source. First: find an alternative to the proprietary applications. Second: begin to involve IT staff and others in the organisation early on. “You cannot start early enough to prepare them for the change in tasks.”

Lastly, he recommends teaming-up with the organisation’s procurement department. “They need to understand open source, and be made aware that, in this case, requiring specific software solutions is allowed. Our procurement offices are now actively looking for the flexibility offered by open source.”

 

More information:

Försäkringskassans open IT portal
Computer Sweden news item (in Swedish)
Computer Sweden news item (in Swedish)
Computer Sweden news item (in Swedish)
Techworld news item (in Swedish_
W6 news item (in Swedish)
TU news item (in Swedish)

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