Irish City Adopts Open Source Business Server
The city of Limerick, Ireland, is known for a lot of things: the infamous “broken treaty” of 1691, Gaelic sports and the eponymous form of poetry. Now, the town is also aspiring to become a model for deploying open source in government. It completed the latest move in that process this week with the adoption of the Zentyal Small Business Server and Zarafa groupware suite.
Limerick is hardly the first local administration in Europe to consider moving to open source software solutions. Plenty of other municipalities and larger government organizations have made similar migrations. The French ministry of police, for example, has adopted Ubuntu, and the city of Munich, Germany, is in the midst of a long-term effort, called LiMux, to migrate fully to open source platforms.
But Limerick is the first major municipality in properly western Europe to embrace open source software so completely, with an explicit and detailed commitment by its city council to integrate open source solutions into its IT infrastructure on both the desktop and server fronts. The primary objective, according to the city, is to save cash by “adopting open source solutions that prove to be value for money.”
On Dec. 11, the city took a major step toward further implementing its open source vision by migrating servers to the Small Business Server from Zentyal, which is based in Spain. The platform incorporates a range of open source technologies that include Samba for Active Directory integration and Zarafa’s groupware suite, designed as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange.
According to Limerick City Council’s CIO, Mihai Bilauca, the municipality chose the Zentyal open source server solution because it required no significant training for administrators and users accustomed to working in the Microsoft environment that it replaces. “Both system administrators and users used to Windows environments needed to feel at ease with the new systems and be productive from day one,” he said. “We were extremely satisfied to notice that our system administrators did not need special training in Zentyal even if they did not have Linux background and Zarafa’s webmail was conceived as a web-based replacement for Outlook. All this helped greatly making the migration pretty straightforward.”
Open Source and Europe
On this side of the Atlantic ocean (which, since I’m writing this a few miles from Baltimore harbor, is to say the western side), it would be much more surprising for a major government agency to announce its intent to switch totally to open source software platforms. But in Europe, such efforts are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Some observers may note that the German city of Freiburg recently made headlines for renouncing its adoption of OpenOffice, the open source office suite. But Limerick’s much more comprehensive embrace of open source countervails that recent setback for the open source channel, and follows a string of similar efforts in other European government agencies.
Meanwhile, as we saw last week, the American Big Data vendor MapR has taken note of expanding commercial opportunities for open source solutions in European markets by establishing a new major headquarters in London. And Zarafa, which is based in Holland, also announced new investment in central Europe aimed at stealing market share from Microsoft.
Call Europeans what you will, but you can’t say they’re anti-open source.