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NT govt eyes Linux in $35M desktop overhaul

NT govt eyes Linux in $35M desktop overhaul

Northern Territory's department of corporate and information systems (DCIS) has issued a white paper requesting proposals for its second generation whole of government desktop outsourcing contract which includes provisions for an open source solution.

The document was released on May 10 and states that the existing contract with CSC will cease in June 2006 so DCIS can refocus the desktop contracts to "substantially lower the overall cost to government".

"NTG is currently reviewing a range of operating systems for its future personal computing platform. These include Windows, Linux and thin client systems," the document states.

DCIS has seen a wide range of "predominantly partisan" reports on the relative merits of Windows, open source and thin client environments and is assessing these reports in conjunction with agency experience in using each of the operating systems.

Round one of NT's desktop outsourcing adventure was valued at $35 million but DCIS expects to reduce total outgoings for desktop contracts, as currently operating, to "reduce significantly" over the next contract period. Furthermore, the number of client devices - now at 8200 desktops and 1870 notebooks - to increase as a result of more adoption of mobile devices like PDAs and tablet PCs.

In somewhat of an anomaly for a government procurement guideline, the white paper specifically states "to avoid future incompatibilities" all hardware and peripherals procured must "be able to connect to and operate under open source operating systems".

The NT government has "a range of open source technologies in production across a number of agencies and is expecting, in the near term, to increase the use of open source technologies". The pace and extent of the uptake, however, is "not known at this stage".

The document also states that Microsoft Windows and Office operating environments are "likely remain predominant" over the next two to three years due to "legacy applications that rely on the Windows operating system", DCIS plans to promote increased use of a Web computing model for its enterprise applications.

In terms of licensing, DCIS is open to outsourcing licence management to a desktop service provider or establishing a range of enterprise agreements.

"Of particular interest is NTG's approach to its Microsoft operating system and office automation licences," the white paper states. "Service providers and agencies are invited to make submissions in relation to the management of NTG's software licensing, including the merits of entering into an enterprise agreement for Microsoft products."

By assessing the document exchange profile between public sector employees, agencies, and external parties, DCIS has concluded that "government document exchange is largely internal".

"The vast majority of communication and collaboration is internal to government, therefore enabling NTG to consider open source solutions for office automation and collaboration software," the white paper states.

This paves the way for solutions around the OpenOffice.org productivity suite to be put forward.

DCIS ICT Tender Office director Brad Irvine could not comment on the white paper, but will do the final tendering process once the final strategy is known in July.

Other objectives of the new DCIS sourcing strategy is to increase local small to medium enterprise participation in outsourced services, enhancing their capabilities to serve both NTG and other markets.


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