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Novell IT

New Zealand Government Open Source with Novell 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-country dept.
quikflik writes "New Zealand Computerworld magazine reports an 'All-of-government' open source deal with Novell. The deal allows government agencies access to Novell Open Source software and support - and probably some other Novell products too considering the Inland Revenue Department have been using them for a while. Still .. is an incumbant vendor always the best? If you were a government, which linux distribution would you choose?"
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New Zealand Government Open Source with Novell

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  • by Ruede (824831)
    debian :)
    • Linux Slackware, Just do it! But on a more serious note, Slackware; Because I love the fact that things don't get configured by themselves. Most slackware stuff needs to be done manually.
    • Re:linux (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Neo-Rio-101 (700494)
      I have to admit that Debian is a really cool distro. It's my favourite desktop distro as well.

      However, that doesn't cut it in the server room sometimes. I've had plenty of trouble trying to wean Debian "sarge" onto some types of servers (esp. blades) from manufacturers who don't support Linux or the BSDs on their hardware. In some cases I have had to do backflips to pry free OSes on. For many businesses this is too much hassle and too much of a risk. Add the fact that if they used Debian or BSD or whatever
      • Add the fact that if they used Debian or BSD or whatever free-soft-distro-of-the-month is, they have no one to yell and scream at when something goes wrong.

        You might want to verify this statement with HP [hp.com]. Last I checked they will take your money and offer support for debian.

        There may be other companies as well, But, no suport for debian is an out right myth, no matter what type of support you are talking about.

        • Actaully, one of my customers has bought HP over another expensive brand for this very reason. HP is doing something right by offering Linux support on their hardware. Other hardware vendors had better start listening to their customers.
        • The only really logical thing for any government to do regarding Linux is the production of their own distribution. The preparation of an inital distribution to be used as the base could be tendered out and then expanded upon prior to actual implementation. This distribution could then be used throught out the government beauracracies at federal, state and local level ensuring a high level of compatability as well as providing businesses, both computer and non-computer open access for compatability, interco
  • I'm sure it's a pure coincidence that this coincides with the release of Novell SUSE Linux 10.0 [novell.com].
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:01AM (#13887703)
    There is a lot to be said for sticking with your current vendor and infrastructure. First, the cost of switching is a huge factor when making a platform switch. If it were a piece of cake, then sure, go with the vendor that gives you the most bang for your buck, but real life is hardly like that.

    Going with what you know is always a better solution than going with an unknown. The key, of course, is planning. Whatever you do, the goal of all your short term actions should guide you towards your long term goals.
  • a home made one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:04AM (#13887711) Journal
    that's what public universities are for.

    put the students and the faculty working in the distro. create tech support incubator companies.

    gives a boost to the local industry, trains new ppl, brings new ideas, tailor the software according to local needs/culture, keeps the money in the country...
  • Which distro? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anti-Trend (857000)
    If you were a government, which linux distribution would you choose?

    Gee, this won't start flame wars. :P But in any case, I might personally choose Mandriva Linux, since they are a very non-proprietary Linux vendor who's practices jive well with the spirit of the GPL. Mandriva is definately one of the most desktop-ready distros out there, strikes a good balance between the stability and freshness of packages, and has a huge amount of community-contributed software available for it. It's also a good distro

  • Good for Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skingers6894 (816110) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:05AM (#13887713)
    This is an example where Novell is good for Linux. It's much easier for a government to "stick with Novell" than "jump to open source". It sounds safer somehow even if the end result is the same for Linux.
  • by FluffyPanda (821763) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:07AM (#13887720)
    If I were a government looking for a software platform I would most definately choose Novell. You get the level of support that you need with the advantage that you are getting an open platform on which to work. If you have trouble with your Novell linux you can easily get Redhat in to take over, bring in consultants to help out or even set up a department to do it yourself.

    But we all know that, right? Is anyone on Slashdot actually thinking that choosing SLES over, say RHEL or (god forbid) a custom Gentoo approach is a bad decision?

    My personal opinion is that Novell / SuSE is a better approach than RedHat since Novell has a better desktop product (actually, a better range of desktop offerings) to go along with its server software.
    • Red Hat's administration software is probably superior to Novell's, and I find SuSE lacking in some areas, but regardless... if Novell keeps performing how they have been for the past 3 to 5 quarters, in say 5 years there will be no more Novell. Novell is a highly mismanaged company, literally riddled with problems. The investors of Novell are pretty much demanding a revamp in management and there has been speculation that a bigger fish might wind up just buying Novell.

      If Novell finds that linux isn't maki
    • Novell is a good choice because in addition to service they offer some awesome add ons like eDirectory, Ifolder and groupwise. I noticed they open sourced a "light" version of ifolder too, good for them.

      They have a really impressive stack now.
  • by hherb (229558) <horst@dorrigomedicAUDENal.com minus poet> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:14AM (#13887731) Homepage
    A government is spending taxpayers money. They should feel obliged to get the biggest band for buck long term. Since most of the costs will probably go into ongoing system maintenance, there is hardly another distribution that can beat the Debian packaging system - especially regarding long term consistency.

    The other benefit not going with a specific commercial distro with their proprietary (even if open!) quirks, but rather with generic Debian is that you will find it easier to get qualified administrators too - that has at least been the experience with our medical centre's IT infrastructure
    • I never advocate Debian because of the lack of signed packages. Big security risk in my opinion.

      Poison a Debian package repository and you have mass ownage.

      Plus, the lack of stable releases. You can arguably use "testing" and there are good reasons to. I just hate the idea of using a release publicly stated as being in a "testing" state on enterprise production hardware =(

      Also, there's the issue of support with proprietary software on Linux. There's always support for RedHat and SLES.. never Debian.
  • Since there are no licenses, OpenSource is much sheeper.
  • Could be a smart move. I guess the CEO of Novell will shortly be needing to flee to somewhere a long way away after his "investors" have finished with him.
  • by mikaelhg (47691) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:32AM (#13887766)
    I'm not "a government" but instead work for one.

    When we buy general-purpose servers, we go for reasonable quality, good hardware replacement support services, and distribution-hardware compatibility partnerships, such as the Red Hat - HP one.

    The question "what is it we really need to provide" which ultimately leads to "which distribution should we use" is not a trivial one. However, the one surefire way to botch things up is to put "we should use X" question before the "what do we want" question.

    A general tone in the government IT is that a push towards Linux is good around the board for us customers because it changes the market landscape back to normal after Microsoft has tipped it over for a while. "Horses for courses" is a tried and tested way for humans to work together, and malignant monopolies can prevent and have prevented us from working together.

    However, what we're really waiting for is for the established actors in the Linux market, such as Red Hat and Novell, to bring out real corporate desktop products with all associated support services. I'm not talking about the current workstation products, but instead of locked-down, managed desktop environments WITH the fringe benefit of X11, which means that we can add local applications on local application servers without having to install them on the desktops, and benefit from a more headquaters-controlled but still locally fixable environment.

    We're seeing the Red Hat Network product being worked on, and ultimately the openness of Linux architecture will be a huge boon for citizen activists who can add efficiency to government directly by fixing software applications and creating better ones.

    Vehicle registration software working slowly? You can fix it directly by optimizing the GUI libraries.
  • by boxxa (925862)
    At home and in my office I run SuSE linux. I can adapt it to run any application stable to perform the business needs and also it can be adapted to virtually any working environment. Also, the user interface is very friendly with Yast but I think that the true distro that would excel the others is the one that will provide large deployments with the support for their users while they learn the new software and help them work the software into their existing operations, which from the article, Novell seems t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:40AM (#13887786)
    Simple look at the needs of the Organization and choose a mixture:
    1. OpenBSD for the Bastion Side, Firewalls, IDS, Routers.
    2. Linux for File Shares, DB's and apps. {Suse, Redhat}
    3. Client Side: Xandros, knoptics

    Each item would be rated against a check list of items.

  • by harryoyster (814652) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:42AM (#13887794) Homepage
    Having been working in an Redhat enterprise linux environment for so many years we have recently began to shift all servers over to novel. Since that time we have had less issues and the overall support from novel has been awesome to say the least. PLUS in our case it costs significantly less than the same Redhat licensing fees (redhat network etc). We have also several slackware and debian boxes doing other things. Go Novel, Say no to redhat.
  • by tmasky (862064) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @06:48AM (#13887806)
    To my knowledge, there isn't _one_ RedHat partner in New Zealand. Let alone any presence from any other commercial dist.

    Jumping on this, Novell New Zealand has quite successfully been pushing their product and support. Without really any competitor, they're taking over the public and private sector by storm.

    So yeah. No suprise regarding the outcome of preferential Linux vendor choice =)
    • You might be right, but I'm reasonably sure that IBM is pushing some kind of Linux initiative in New Zealand. One of my friends at uni (in NZ) ended up with an IBM job that was essentially Linux-centred. As far as I know, the job was a direct result of IBM's pushing of Linux -- whether he's providing Linux services or just working in-house, I'm not sure.

  • I'd choose the one with the biggest company backing it, because that's what governments tend to do, and well, surprise, surprise, what did New Zealand do?
  • Criticism (Score:4, Informative)

    by Domstersch (737775) <dominics@g m a i l.com> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @07:01AM (#13887836) Homepage
    There has already been a fair bit of (poorly researched) criticism of this plan - a good example pointed out to me by the guys at the New Zealand Open Source Society was this article in New Zealand's National Business Review:

    Open source in government: A delusional cheer from the Greens [nbr.co.nz]

    Among the more irrational claims made against OS in this article is:
    Even in servers, its strongest point of contention, Linux holds only a very minor share of the market.
    Looks like someone hadn't seen that Netcraft doesn't confirm it [slashdot.org] (assuming Apache is mostly run on Linux, right?).
    • Re:Criticism (Score:3, Informative)

      by dacaffinator (750403)
      The thing about the NBR is, well to be blunt, they're all clueless rich wankers.
      • Reminds me of a joke.

        "What's the difference between a businessman and a Jet?"
        "The jet stops whining when it gets to Hawaii".

        Honestly why do these rich business people continue to bleat on about how horrible their lives are? Just shut up and enjoy your beachfront property for gods sake.
    • I only skimmed the site you linked, but can someone explain to me why a particular OS having a small market share should in itself have anything to do with whether or not you choose it?

      Factors like interoperability, scalability, security, performance, and support are important. Things like the raw number, or percentage, of people using a given product should be completely irrelevant to whether or not the product is chosen.

    • assuming Apache is mostly run on Linux, right?

      I do not know that it can be assumed that Apache is mostly run on Linux. Apache websites are running on several Unix and Unix-like OS's including Solaris, the various BSDs, and Linux.
      • That's very true. The general gist of the article was against OSS, so I'm not sure that journalist would be any happier with Solaris or BSD based servers. Still, it's pretty funny that the NBR journalist has overlooked the fact that an Open Source (oh, sorry, the NBR article says I'm not allowed to use Proper Noun Case) webserver is behind the majority of sites on the internet, regardless of their operating system. And I just love the way he paints OSS as a solution for the irrational, tree-hugging, hippi
    • Re:Criticism (Score:3, Informative)

      by burnin1965 (535071)
      Actually the Apache install base is not a good measure of the linux install base. Netcraft at one time tracked operating systems but they stopped sometime in 2001.

      However, the older Netcraft surveys do suggest a significant linux presence and the author of the NBR article is misrepresenting the article to which he references.

      Based on old Netcraft surveys linux likely has around a 30% market share in web servers and Windows has around 50%. That is far from tiny and insignificant and based on information from
    • If the NBR is anything like any other business organization in the US (the chamber for example) they are an ultra conservative band of people who exist to raise money for defeating environmental regulations, busting unions, fighting against higher wages, and safer workplaces. These groups honestly and sincerely believe that their profits are more important then anything else in the world including the health and welfare of the citizens and their progeny.

      I once heard the head of the chamber say "we have no p
    • The title of that article does raise an interesting point.

      I don't know what Green parties are like in other countries, but the NZ one has adopted all sorts of ridiculous policies and is generally considered a loony group.

      Simply the fact that groups like the Greens are endorsing OSS will result in people associating the two, possibly harming OSS adoption in the long run.

      It has happened to otherwise sound principles such as environmental sustainability or healthy food programmes in schools.
  • It may not be as simple as selecting one single vendor, but I'd be inclined to deal with the problem in the following way. For a start, choose something that's supported by more than one vendor. You're pretty much obliged to do this to avoid vendor lock-in, right? And we want to avoid that. So, given that it's available from more than one viable vendor, choose two vendors and give your subordinates the leeway to select one or the other on a case by case basis. That way your suppliers keep each other on thei
    • Well, maybe not New Zealand, but most federal governments.

      New Zealand doesn't have a federal government. Nor do a lot of other countries. In New Zealand there's just a national government - no federation of smaller states. There are district councils and the like at the local level, but nothing like the state-level governing infrastructures that you see in, e.g. the US. In New Zealand the national police force is the only police force, your car is registered with the national government, and the law is the

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @07:15AM (#13887870) Homepage
    As a government, or pretty much anybody with a lot to loose, you'd want to go with a distribution that...

    A) Can give support when you need it.
    B) Can reasonably guarantee that it will do so for the next decade.

    This pretty much leaves just Red Hat and Novell.
    From then on it's probably a matter of weighing benefits vs. price during negotiations.
    • Exactly. I'd put it more bluntly: they want someone to blame, somewhere where the buck stops if things go bad. They're a government not a [L][U]UG. So they'll go SuSE because that's what Novell offers.

    • I'll leave it to others to comment on the actual content of your comment. Seeing as this is Slashdot, I figure at least half of the replies (this among them) should just point out that the word 'lose' only has one 'o'.
  • It's good for open source, it's good for Novell and it's good for the New Zealand government. After all, open source software may not come with any licensing fees, but somebody still has to install it, make sure it all works as expected and maintain it for you afterwards. Also, a lot of people had their doubts as to whether Novell's new open source business plan was going to work. Hell, I used to be a CNE and just a short while ago I thought M$ had pretty much succeeded in making the company irrelevant. Now
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @07:36AM (#13887927) Homepage
    What distro? The one you can get best LOCAL support for. Why send off tax dollars to some MegaCorp in the US if you can create LOCAL jobs and support LOCAL companies?
    • The Novell resources that are called upon will primarily be people in New Zealand. This is a first world country with local people at all levels of business and technical expertise. Novell New Zealand will no doubt be hiring more people (New Zealand citizens, residents, tax payers) to support this project.

      Of course, some of the money will go to the USA. This buys the benefits of the security of dealing with a larger more stable (one hopes) corporate entity.
  • by bensch128 (563853)
    I'd roll my own and then convince the government to pay me a gigantic support contract.

    Then when they have problems with openoffice or mozilla, i'd tell them to go complain to the project developers.

    Ben
  • by LaughingCoder (914424) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @07:58AM (#13887979)
    There is obviously a trend towards open source platforms and away from proprietary platforms. On that we can probably all agree. The question I have is, what happens next? Assume 2 or 3 Linux distributions end up becoming widespread and dominant. Assume Windows becomes just one of many rather than being ubiquitous. Let's think outside the box and assume that even Apple ekes out more than a 3% share of the desktop. What is the impact of this on application developers? Sure, the "generic" apps like those found in the various Office products will continue to evolve, copy each other, exchange data with each other, and be the primary application most people use in their jobs. But what about the specialty applications: audio/video editing, medical and scientific applications, airline reservation systems, tax preparation software, web content creation, etc, etc? Do "best-in-class" applications emerge for each of these niches - tied to a single platform? Does the whole world switch to open source so the platform doesn't matter? My big fear is we end up like it was in the 1970's all over again where you are forced to choose a platform to get the particular application you need. And if you need multiple applications, you end up supporting multiple platforms. Yes, standards that address interoperability can help in this regard, but if you want best-in-class you will not have much choice, and we all know that supporting multiple platforms is more work than supporting one.
    • cross platform development tools and web apps.

      People who make applications like the ones you describe like to use those where possible to maximize the potential users of the software they create.

    • My big fear is we end up like it was in the 1970's all over again where you are forced to choose a platform to get the particular application you need.

      Uh, this has been the standard in PC applications ever since we have had PCs. If you wanted to do spreadsheets you had to have an Apple ][ in order to use Visicalc (until 1-2-3 came out and buried it), if you wanted a database you had to have an IBM compatible (with MSDos or PCDos) to run DBase II (and later DBase III), then if you wanted software that r

      • I disagree. My point was that, indeed that was the state of the world 20 years ago. The dominance of Windows has, for the most part, made that no longer the case. Virtually any application you want is available for Windows. And in many cases, the best-in-class is the Windows version (because it's the one into which the application developers pour the most resources, not necessarily because Windows is a better platform). As an application developer (of which I am one) the choice is (was?) easy - you develop
    • Easy.

      1) Use Java, python, ruby, hell even TCL. Most languages support multiple operating systems. Come to think of it the only ones that don't are MS only languages like VB. Even VB.NET can be run on mono in a crappy-not-everyting-works-yet kind of way.

      2) Write for unix. That way at a minimum your application can be complied on every linux distro, freebsd and mac os X. Now that MS is shipping SFU maybe your app will work in windows too in a crappy-not-everything-works-yet kind of way.
  • I'd have the IT department put together a distrobution based on Gentoo.
    This would allow the IT department to have an exact idea of what is in the system and exactly how it's going to work.
    This would require the IT staff to have the expertise to properly support this setup without external support. But most governments should already have such resources.
    - Jesse McNelis
  • this is great news we need more victories like this. I don't care what distribution they chose as along as it isn't Microsoft.

    now they will be kicking themselves for not doing it sooner. we need to stop this distribution fighting. I chose Ubuntu personally but I personally find it very hard to chose because there are so many that are high quality.

    when something like this happens we all win.
  • It's all very well saying "they should use debian" or "OMG LFS!!!"

    As an IT contractor I've worked inside government, and the culture is very different compared to the commercial world. Government jobs are jobs for life. There is nothing that encourages the learning of new skills, and the only real way to lose your job is through misconduct or negligence. Thus the over-riding concern is about not taking responsibility for anything, and the path known is always better than the unknown. There is no grass-r
  • I would choose Debian, hands down... When you go with a corporate-branded distro, you have the potential for vender lock-in. Look at Red Hat - many organizations which depended on its free distribution (which ended with Red Hat 9) now have to pony up large sums of money to get its RHEL or are forced to go with the fairly buggy and IMHO unstable Fedora.

    Debian's stable, community-supported, free as in beer AND in free speech, and won't be going away any time soon. Some complain about Debian's slow release
    • You've never used Fedora I guess. It currently is ranked 3rd in linux servers after RHEL and Debian. It surpassed SuSE in a little over a year and is close to passing Debian (All according to netcraft). Fedora is IMHO the best distro on the market, and quite frankly the only one currently worth using because it is the only one that has a great balance of desktop orientation, but built with running as a server in mind as well. As far as Debian goes, they don't have the enterprise management tools that corpor
    • Ease off on the FUD my friend, believe it or not we are on the same side.

      There is no "vendor lock-in" with Red Hat products. Its linux, its GPL, and its based off the same code base as Debian.

      Those who were dependant upon Red Hat's inexpensive up2date service for the RHL products had the choice of going enterprise or going with free community support. Nobody was left out on their own with no support on a system with "vendor lock-in". I was one of those who was using the inexpensive up2date service and could
  • If I were the prime minister I would pay a company to train a group of GNU/Linux and BSD system administrators. Then I would hire them and install Debian GNU/Linux on all client machines and OpenBSD on all servers. I would also consider offering tax cuts for private businesses and individuals using GNU/Linux or BSD, because this would help this country to fight unstable PCs and virii.
  • I used Gentoo for a little more than a year because it had good support for PPC and lots of applications. But I've always been a BSD-head, and I moved my main machine back to OpenBSD after I got sick of awful manpages and the absolute mess I eventually created trying to install stuff in Gentoo.

    A couple weeks ago, my dad tossed me a Ubuntu LiveCD, and said to try it. Another LiveCD? *yawn* It sat on my desk until I decided I needed some old files off of a hybrid ext3/HFS+ disk. Popped the CD into my l

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