City of Vienna increasingly turns to open source

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The administration in the Austrian capital, Vienna, is expanding its use of open source solutions, including on its workstations, because of new requirements, open data, budget constraints and the major shift towards smartphones and tablets.

"Open source helps to solve IT vendor lock-in situations", Norbert Weidinger, ICT-Strategist for the city, said in a presentation on the city's use of free and open source solutions.

Open source is now well-established in the city's main IT operations, according to the presentation which Weidinger delivered at a Major Cities of Europe conference in Dublin on 17 January. The city has 454 Linux servers (from a total of 2,000 servers), 270 Apache instances, uses Postgres to manage 380 databases and MySQL to manage another 90. Open source is used for file and printing services, for e-government services and for external and internal websites.

"We're promoting the use of open source products where possible", Weidinger said.

The IT department's responsibilities include the IT in the city's public healthcare, public schools and the administration of city-owned housing.

Actively used

Weidinger's presentation includes a list of open source solutions used on the city's workstations. Web browser Firefox is installed on 17,500 of the in total 56,800 workstations. VLC is installed on 13,603 PCs, PDFCreator on 14,852, 7-Zip on 14,575 and Freemind on 1,662. The city also supports the use of Apache OpenOffice: the office suite is now installed on 3,000 PCs. However, Weidinger notes, it is being used actively on only 600 workstations. The city also builds its own solutions in-house using open source components, and shares these with other public administrations. Between 2010 and 2012 it built it's e-Gov Form server, which is now used in 3 of Austria's nine states, and the Austrian Cities Association, a cooperation partner of Vienna. The city administration is planning to use Liferay, an open source content management system. It is already deploying smaller webprojects using the Wordpress CMS. Vienna is using Pentaho, an open source business intelligence solution, for some of its data mining and reporting.

IT vendor lock-in

In December 2009, the city council disputed the forced purchasing of licences for a proprietary office suite. This is tied to the city's proprietary system for enterprise resource planning and also a requirement for its implementation of the Austrian's government record management system, ELAK (Elektronischer Akt). A study by the city's IT department had already concluded in 2008 that these two were blocking the switch to open source office alternatives. Over the past decade, Vienna has been one of a handful of European cities that piloted the use of open source office suites. In 2005 and 2006, Vienna developed its own Linux distribution, Wienux, intended to be used on the city's workstations, using OpenOffice, released as open source in 2000 by Sun Microsystems.

Gijs Hillenius writes original articles for the Joinup project of the European Commission. His articles are republished here with permission. Originally posted on the Joinup blog.

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Gijs Hillenius writes original articles for the Joinup project of the European Commission. His articles are republished here with permission.


Those are some impressive numbers, and they show that open source can be a viable alternative to commercial software.

One question: what operating system(s) are the workstations running? Are they free/open source, commercial, or a mix of both?

The workstations run the ubiquitous proprietary operating system.

See also this 2007 presentation


In reply to by ScottNesbitt

Software vendors making money is great - as long as it is not from vendor lock-in.
Also the City of Munich is developing an open source system for own use - LiMux - and other parties are likely interested too. Which raises the question of bundling resources and avoiding duplicate efforts. Couldn't the EU take on a role as responsible for a library of certified open source software components from where the governments of the EU could pull copies for own use? The EU could put the work for development and maintenance of the library out for public bid with one of the requirements being that the finished product be only open source.

For bundling resources and avoiding duplicate efforts is why the European Commission started the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) and its Semantic Interoperability project (SEMIC), that can now be found on the "Joinup Collaboration platform"

The commission was inspired by France's Adullact, a free software user group of French civil servants, and in many European countries there are similar code repositories. Many of these are "joined" (federated) at the "interoperability solutions" section on Joinup...

For Munich, I recommend this OSOR study

In reply to by anonymous (not verified)

I think if you don't give people the option to use proprietory Office suite then they conform to using something like OpenOffice which is a great product. If you can convert your proprietory software to work on web or its client to install on Linux then you can move all your workstations to Linux. As a first step you should force users to use OpenOffice whether they are on proprietory OS or Linux, it will help you save lots of money and their is hardly any difference in its capability as compared to its competition. Once they get used to it, there will be no looking back. Linux will save you from viruses and so many other problems in addition to giving better performance with lower configuration workstations.