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VNU Net: Major deals boost Linux community

Jul 12, 2000, 18:11 (6 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Kris Sangani, Liesbeth Evers)

By Kris Sangani and Liesbeth Evers, Network News

The open source movement received a massive boost last week as high profile users, including the Pentagon, Norwich Union and retail giant MVC, signed to use Linux for mission critical functions.

The three rollouts are among the first where Linux has been placed in the front line, and the move is widely seen as reinforcing the open source software's credibility as a serious and secure business operating system.

The Pentagon has opted for an as yet unnamed flavour of Linux for its first software-based radio application, the Joint Tactical Radio System. The $500m (£312.5m) project will enable troops to carry video and data transmissions onto the battlefield.

While remaining tight-lipped about the reasons for choosing Linux, the Pentagon said that it had been a keen exponent of the advantages of open source since it funded the development of Unix. A Pentagon spokesperson said: "Open system architecture enables technology to be added later, either through evolutionary acquisition or pre-planned product improvement."

Linux evangelist Eddie Bleasdale, director of Netproject Consultancy, said: "The US military's experience with Unix taught it that open source was secure and cheap."

Hill House Hammond, Norwich Union's retail subsidiary, said that cost was a key issue in selecting Linux. The company is installing Red Hat Linux across more than 250 remote sites in the first full-scale financial sector rollout.

Neil Turner, Hill House Hammond's IT director, said: "We looked at Windows NT and other commercial versions of Unix, but the cost of these systems made it difficult for us to justify."

Retail music chain MVC said that cost was also a factor in its plan to roll out Linux throughout its 87 stores, but it had also found that the operating system was faster and more reliable. Steve Jarvis, store systems manager at MVC, said: "The system proved to be very robust and very fast."

However, Ahmed Patel, a lecturer in computer networks at University College Dublin, warned that the wide availability of information about open source technology would make such systems vulnerable to hacking attacks.

"In the case of the Pentagon project it's possible to eavesdrop on a radio system through radiation monitoring. Hackers could detect passwords and confidential information if they were familiar with the architecture and knew what they were looking for," he said.

[ First published in Network News ]

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