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City of Chicago “We’re a big Oracle shop,” Niersbach said. “We’re conservative. We look at who’s certified in Oracle and Red Hat was at the time. We’d rather take the conservative approach.”
A program called City Stickers – the motor vehicle department for Chicago – was the first to have switched to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. City Stickers is responsible for managing and tracking all vehicle permits and for allowing residents to purchase and renew tags and stickers online.
With the intent to reduce lines at City Hall and afford residents the option to buy city stickers online, Bhatt says only 300,000 people out of 3 million used the online service in 2006. He wants 50 percent of the population – rather than 10 percent – to use the capability in 2007.
Systems required for vehicle registration, online job applications and ethics training will also have Red Hat installed. Moving to Linux also made sense due to hardware maintenance and support requirements, which Niersbach says has turned very costly for the city.
Bhatt says maintenance of all servers and desktops is now being outsourced to Unisys in Chicago.
The city also wanted flexibility in choosing its vendors. Bhatt added: “We are ‘virtualizing’ our machines so we’re platform independent and hardware and server agnostic. One server is running multiple applications.” With the city’s choice to support open source, Chicago has embraced a “transparent government” that’s designed to be an “open, responsive and fiscally responsible” government.
Bhatt says residents shouldn’t notice downtime. He added: “The end user isn’t affected by the migration. It’s the platform that’s changing.”
Other cities are following suit, too. Last month, the French National Assembly announced that it is switching to open-source technology on desktop PCs to save cash. While the government must shell out money to finance the migration and for training on Linux machines, they claim the software will still result in heavy cost savings.
The city of Munich in Germany is also moving to “Limux,” which means “Linux in Munich”. Munich’s ambitious plans call to have four out of every five PCs switched to open-source technology by the end of 2008 while June 2007 is the scheduled date for 1,100 French parliamentary workstations to begin using open-source technology.
| By ADAM FENDELMAN