Issue date: 16 December 1999
Racal to trial free Linux to avoid 1m MS upgrade
Racal Defence Electronics is looking to shave 1m off its IT
bills by using the Linux operating system on its desktop PCs
instead of Windows 2000 and Office 2000.
The defence contractor is planning to pilot the free operating
system under a project to test its usability and user acceptance
in a desktop environment.
The pilot is an innovative step for Racal. Linux has been
heavily criticised for lack of Office productivity applications
and not being friendly enough for the end-user.
If the pilot is successful, it could lead to one of the largest
implementations of Linux on the desktop.
Steve Lewis, one of Racal's IT executives who is leading
the project, said the move was a bold step for the defence
contractor, but the potential cost savings had proved to be
too attractive to ignore.
He said, "We have 3,500 PC users. To move to Office 2000 and
Windows 2000 will cost us 1m in licence fees alone."
Racal has been forced to consider upgrading to a new operating
system because of its concerns that support for its current
system, Windows NT 4, might diminish as Microsoft develops new
operating system software, such as Windows 2000.
The aim of the pilot, which IT staff will be running in their
spare time, is to resolve some of the traditional roadblocks
confronting users who move to a Linux desktop environment.
Lewis said, "[One of the biggest problems that] we need to
contend with is people being emotionally wedded to Microsoft."
The main technical hurdle will be to provide a viable
alternative to Microsoft's Outlook/Exchange software which
offers groupware features such as assigning tasks, shared
calendars and discussion groups to users.
Lewis has given Windows 2000 18 months to resolve teething
problems and technical issues.
He said, "If we want to do anything substantial [with Linux]
it has to be mature and tested and available within the next
18 months, after which time Windows 2000 will have stabilised."