“This research report by a third-year graduate student examines the growing use of desktop Linux among governments in the US and globally. Drawing on published research and comments from industry analysts, the author hypothesizes that desktop Linux may be nearing a tipping point within government settings, after which adoption can be expected to accelerate.”
The Diffusion and Adoption of Desktop Linux in Government
About The Author
Follow me on Twitter @thomholwerda
2006-04-26 9:21 pmMystilleef
Sorry, it doesn’t get cheaper than free.
2006-04-26 9:30 pmSphinx
You expect his math would be better given the situation.
2006-04-26 9:35 pmFooBarWidget
Sure it does. By giving away money. You’d essentially have a negative price.
2006-04-26 11:28 pmphoenix
You’re in the wrong district, then. Our district has saved nearly $500,000 over the past 5 years by migrating all our elementary schools over to Linux X Terminals using donated computers.
Yes, we had to buy new servers for each school ($3000), but we did not need to buy new computers (only $50 ea) nor did we have to buy new software licenses ($0 ea), nor do we have to pay for virus scanners, system lockdown software, annual licenses, or onsite technicians.
We now have 37 elementary schools with fully function computer labs with 30 computers in each lab, search stations in the libraries, 1 computer per classroom for teacher use, all remotely administered by three people (with 2 roaming technicians for hardware issues).
We’re now expanding the program into secondaries. Two already have CAD labs running on X Terminals. No longer have to pay $1000s per station for CAD software. < $500 covers our entire district, on Linux, Windows, and MacOS X (gotta love QCad). And we don’t need the very latest P4s with gobs of RAM. These CAD labs are all P2s. Several tens of thousands a year saved right there.
And this summer we’re expanding into all areas of a secondary school (office, teacher labs, student labs, classroom computers, resource room, counselling). Everything managed by one X server. Desktops then become replacable appliances.
In total, we’ve saved the cost of close to 1500 Microsoft Windows licenses, almost 40 Novell Netware licenses, close to 1500 Command AV licenses, close to 1500 Deep Freeze licenses, close to 1500 MS Office licenses, and all the annual updates/upgrades for the above. And all it cost us was ~35 * $3000 for the servers, and ~1500 * $50 for the desktops.
I’d love to know how Microsoft could have been cheaper than that.
2006-04-27 4:42 pmrockwell
Just curious … how well do those Linux X terminals handle heavy Java and flash-based websites? Seems like the pokey hardware might cause some brutal browsing experiences. Or have you found a solution for that?
2006-04-27 5:29 pmcr8dle2grave
Under the most common thin client scenarios the web browser, the Java VM, and the flash plugin would all be running on the central server not on the thin client itself. That said, it is possible using LTSP to configure a thin client to run some programs locally from an NFS mount.
Using wikipedia as a source in a research paper? Tsk tsk. Also found a grammatical error.
But I’m kidding. Actually a pretty interesting read in spite of or maybe because of being too broad to be a decent research paper.
Sorry…removed entry..wouldn;t let me delete my post
Edited 2006-04-26 21:56
2006-04-26 11:29 pmSphinx
Is it ever for any OS?
2006-04-27 1:01 amphoenix
Training, support, salaries, and certification fees are generally fixed for any new OS. There’s a bit of variation depending on who does the training, support, etc. But these are pretty much fixed costs that apply to all new OS purchases/migrations. IOW, any migration to a new OS will incur these fees (OS X and OS Y will both have them).
License fees, however, vary widely between OSes and versions of an OS. And when one column of the “Cost of X vs Y” column has a zero in it, and the other does not, if makes a very big difference.
The other major cost is hardware. One OS usually requires all new hardware; the other does not. Which makes another big difference in a cost comparison.
Linux is not free to corporations and organizations such as the government. Why you ask? support.
The company I work for pays millions (no, I’m not making that up) of dollars in support to various companies like hewlett packard for HP-UX and Novell for SLES/OES. Just because using something is free does not mean supporting it is free.
Large organizations need assurances known in the industry as SLAs or Service Level Agreements that linux distro foo will run and not die. If it does die, they pay company foo to support and help fix it if something serious breaks.
If a 0 day exploit for openssh comes out and my company has ssh open in the wild (shame on you), I want a vendor that will guarantee a fix to this flaw as soon as possible. Without actual companies stepping up and officially supporting linux such as redhat, ibm, novell, oracle, bea, etc, there would be no large organizations using Linux. It would still be a hobby.
Please note I am a Linux zealot who works full time as a Linux/Unix Systems Administrator.
2006-04-26 10:54 pmMystilleef
You have a point, however, I’m talking about aquisition and deployment costs, not maintanance and service costs. No matter how you dice it, it’s still a lot cheaper to “legally” acquire and deploy “Linux” than it is Windows. How corporations go about acquiring and deploying “Linux” is not my business. Needless to say, some corporations are smarter, or more efficient, than others with regards to that.
2006-04-26 11:12 pmSEJeff
Yet again, that boils down to the area it is targeted towards.
You can’t download RHEL or SLES for free. Oracle won’t support anything but those 2. Both of two vendors available with the right software to run your industry (airline) require Oracle… we don’t really have a choice. You can’t get an “enterprise” linux distro to start out with without paying for a support agreement.
Now take that as me personally saying Debian isn’t “enterprise ready”, I’m just saying it isn’t recognized by ISVs or IHVs to certify against.
Mythical Example: I run a hospital with Slackware. There is a new root exploit that comes out for some software I have in slackware. The 1 guy in charge of all of slackware (Pat) dies. Now I can’t get official updates and my servers are compromised and along with that patient data. Would you want something like this to happen? I know I wouldn’t.
I think Linux is cheaper than windows simply because I can easily do things like this:
for server in $(cat production-webservers.txt); do
scp ~/newscript.sh root@$server:/usr/bin/admin/
ssh $server /usr/bin/admin/newscript.sh
2006-04-26 11:54 pmMystilleef
Again, how business acquire and deploy Linux is not my concern. If I had a business, I wouldn’t run any product that locked me to any hardware or software vendor. It will jeopardize the autonomy of my business, and cripple much of my competitive advantage over the big guys. If I can’t run Oracle on my Business’ preferred hardware and software solutions, then I just won’t use it. There are free software alternatives that I am very aware off that provide much of Oracle’s capabilities. It is the duty of my IT department to figure out how to exploit the alternatives to benefit my business. But of course, I understand how the free software ecosystem works. Much of the fortune500 companies out there are just jumping on the open source bandwagon without actually strategizing how it will save them money. It’s not enough to buy RedHat and SUSE licenses and hope your business will begin to save money. No, it takes a lot more than that.
2006-04-27 12:28 amTechGeek
Actually, you can have RHEL for free. Its the support that costs you. Look up CentOS, White Box Linux, some others I am sure. Actually, SELinux is NSA certified. Sure, some Distro’s arent Enterprise ready, but then they arent aimed at that population. Some Distros are for education, science, engineering, hacking, pen testing, general use. You just have to pick the right tools for the job.
2006-04-27 5:19 amSEJeff
I run CentOS on all of my personal servers. I am also aware that you can run Oracle on CentOS with a few hacks to files like /etc/redhat-release. In a HA environment, you need support throughout everything though.
[i]Security-enhanced Linux is not part of any currently approved version of Linux and has no special or additional approval for government use over any other version of Linux.
Actually, SELinux was written by the NSA, not certified by them. If you want to talk technical, talk corrrectly 🙂
2006-04-27 2:10 pmSpasmaticSeacow
I’d point out that RHEL and SLES are both available for download. Thing is, the download versions don’t come with support unless you pay for it. You’ll have to update (up2date) from a mirror rather than Red Hat or Novell directly.
2006-04-27 1:20 amphoenix
Linux is not free to corporations and organizations such as the government. Why you ask? support.
Depends on the business and the government.
The school district I work for prefers to pay for training and salaries of well-trained sysadmins instead of paying megabucks for a support contract we’ll never or rarely use.
Hardware support we don’t skimp on. But software support is kept inhouse as much as possible. Especially when it comes to programming. We’ve been burned too many times over the past 10 years (I’ve only seen the last 5) with half-completed programming projects that nobody understands or can support (we’ve had to rewrite most of them after the contract ends … so now we prefer to write it ourselves. If we need something noone can do internally, then we hire someone full time).
Our dept is only 15 people. But we manage almost a hundred servers, 5000 desktops, a 5-site videoconference network (with a 6-th site in Japan coming online next fall), 50 district buildings, and our own in-town fibre network starting this summer.
IOW, the buck stops with us, and when things go wrong, we take responsibility for it. More importantly, we fix it without playing the blame game.
(Sure, our district only has 17,000 students, but we have the highest computer->student ration while also having one of the smallest tech budgets in the province.)
2006-04-27 5:12 amSEJeff
My IT dept is right around 100. I think I heard ~96 people, but that was overheard. Anyways… we too keep well trained sysadmins in house. I get sent to HP, Novell, EMC, Bea, classes at about 1 week long class / month. The same can be said for the rest of my team.
School districts don’t run mission critical systems. Some of the systems I run crunch numbers for weather and flight planning. If you have the need for a truly HA (high availability) environment, you don’t skimp on support anywhere. That means having hardware/software support contracts along with well trained systems admins.
Example: We noticed that HP didn’t support SLES9 Patchlevel 3 on a DL-360 G4 yet Oracle 10g won’t run without kernel 2.6.7-191(i think thats right) (only available in sles9 patch 3). Oracle refused to install with the patch 2 kernel AND the module for our raid array wasn’t included in it. After calling HP and explaining the problem, they sent us an rpm to install onto a patchlevel 3 system and said they would support it. It was basicly just 1 binary .ko file (kernel module) and some documentation. Could I have managed to find the homepage for the cciss driver, patched the kernel, and rebuilt it myself or just installed the latest vanilla from kernel.org? Yes. Did I save lots of time and therefor money on a time sensitive project? Yes.
HA environments require support covering everything. It is not an excuse to hire non-qualified administrators but rather a supplement.
Impressive numbers with 15 people though, I’m sure you are excellent at what you do.
2006-04-27 1:26 amDark_Knight
I totally agree with your post regarding Linux should not be viewed by consumers as always being free for everyone. Installation and support is a concern for work environments such as government, business and education institutions. Novell for example would rather recommend http://www.novell.com/industries/education/ , http://www.novell.com/industries/government/ and http://www.novell.com/solutions/smallbusiness/ for such markets instead of just recommending the open source version of SUSE Linux. After all those links provide solutions for specific markets taking into consideration requirements for consumers in those markets.
Edited 2006-04-27 01:27
2006-04-27 2:06 pmSpasmaticSeacow
The government is big, very big. In the case of the government, it’s entirely feasible to in-source the same service IBM, RedHat, Novell and others provide. The expertise is out there, as is the source. Other governments have already done the same and shown it can be done for fairly little money.
You’re right though, companies pay through the nose for support contracts. But SLAs don’t get you the service you want, they just mean you don’t have to pay the support charges if they fail to deliver it in a timely manner.
As opposed to Windows, which is not free, and also has non-free training and support?
Let me sum it up thusly:
0+1+1 < 1+1+1
[You’re in the wrong district, then. Our district has saved nearly $500,000 over the past 5 years by migrating all our elementary schools over to Linux X Terminals using donated computers. ]
Yes, try run AutoCAD or 3dsmax on that setup.
2006-04-27 12:23 amTechGeek
Why would an elementary or High school need 3dsmax or Autocad? This isnt college we’re talking about. Besides which, all serious special effects software for video exist on Linux. What do you think IL&M uses for things like Star Wars?
2006-04-27 1:06 amphoenix
We run QCad, a very nice, open-source CAD program. Runs on Linux, Windows, and MacOS X. A yearly license runs around $500 CDN, and allows us to run it on any and all student computers, including home computers.
We have two CAD labs up and running right now, with a third in progress. The original two have been there for two years. None of the drafting teachers are missing AutoCAD.
Try using AutoCAD for less than $500 CDN.
Remember: schools do not (or at least should not) teach software speficis. They teach skills that students can later transfer to any software they come in contact with. Knowing how to organise a paper, or plan a drawing is much more important than knowing where the bold button is or which tool inserts a door.
2006-04-27 2:13 pmSpasmaticSeacow
Yes, try run AutoCAD or 3dsmax on that setup.
You say that as if it cannot be done. I doesn’t take much googling to find instructions on various means to run both programs under Linux.
You’ve got operating systems – like RedHat, Novell, Debian, and you’ve also got KDE and Gnome and maybe XFCE.
So until all the incompatibilites that OSDL, Portland Project, and Freedesktop are working on are worked out it’ll remain a niche, as it has since desktop linux became viable years ago.
Once you go beyond the need for just a browser then things get a lot more complicated. It really comes down to ISV support. http://www.gnomejournal.org/article/43/the-portland-project
Well….this week something happened at work and everybody is angry because I don’t who made the decison of stop using Solaris and decided to switch to NT.
Everything was working fine with Solaris. It was fast and very responsive. Acces to audio was instant, no glitches, no delays.
Now, it takes forever with MS. My work production is going down hill and I had to implement new procedures to do our job. It won’t be the same, that is for sure and I would say that I am not working 100% like I used too., maybe 35% if am that lucky. I told my supervisors that I understand if they wanted to buy new computers and made everybody to be in the same boat, but they had the option that at least switch to Redhat. I would so happy to run Redhat at work but won’t be the case.
I got so mad that I stopped using XP on my laptop and installed Ubuntu Linux. I can not be happier. It works perfect on my Dell Inspiron 600m.
This is my personal experience. Linux is a real option. I have visited other work places using Redhat and you can tell the difference.
I am going to ask again if they can install Redhat in my computer because I am not very happy right now.
2006-04-27 1:14 pmmorglum666
0/10 troll points
-5 lack of creativity
-2 use of percentages
-3 poor use of english to describe a problem
situations – like in education institutions
This is straight from a school district CIO