Penguin power may rule in Vic classrooms

If Novell has its way, Melbourne will become the Linux capital of Australia with students across the state using Linux on the desktop.

Having infiltrated most of the education sector in Victoria, Novell is well placed to push its new business development strategy to incorporate Linux offerings into existing customers' infrastructure.

Novell's well established footprint in the nation's educational institutions means it can exploit interest in the wider-scale adoption of Linux on the desktop.

Swinburne University of Technology is one of many educational institutions that has a significant installed base of Novell software and is now likely to be approached by the company to migrate to its newly-adopted SuSE Linux platform.

Swinburne senior systems administrator for IT services, Brian Habel, said the IT staff are “very excited” by Novell’s Linux strategy as it “opens up a lot of opportunities”.

“If you can run NetWare on Linux you can leverage other [Linux] applications,” he said. “We may already have Linux boxes installed so we could re-use that hardware. Novell’s SuSE Linux will give us more flexibility to get the job done.”

Swinburne has been involved with Novell for 15 years and the company’s NetWare client is installed on about 95 percent of the university’s 6000 screens and there are 35 NetWare servers across six campuses. This provides Novell services for Groupwise, file and print for all staff and students, or about 40,000 accounts.

When asked what approach the university is likely to take if Novell were to offer its SuSE Linux platform as an alternative to Windows, Habel said: “Moving to Linux doesn’t scare me. It gives me value-adds to my skills and [exposes] a wealth of opportunities.”

Habel said he would be happy for a desktop trial to go ahead in a controlled environment such as a library or lab.

Novell’s Asia Pacific general manager, David Lenz, said among the company's strongest markets of health, government, and financial services, education will be one of the early adopters of Linux on the desktop.

“Education is an interesting market,” Lenz said. “We need to come out with some very clear directions in relation to education and we’ll make those announcements over the next month or so as to how we are going to change our existing education programs to incorporate the Linux offerings.”

Lenz said it will provide education with an increased opportunity to consume a lot of Linux-based applications into its existing environments from its existing contracts.

“Our view is that if you’re an existing customer and you want to move to the Linux space then we want to provide the opportunities for you to test it, pilot it, and roll it out as an architecture of the future,” he said.

“And I think education is a classic example of providing that infrastructure for students, teachers, and even parents at home.”

Early adopter

The University of Melbourne’s Trinity College systems administrator Tim Bell said Linux has always been popular in education because of its openness and value for money.

“We’ve always been committed to Linux as a server since 1997 and we will continue to use it as it does everything we need,” he said. “It’s reliable, works well, and there is no per-user or other licensing.”

In addition to the college’s Linux servers, Bell established a student workgroup lab on Linux in 2001 and now has about 45 desktops in use.

“It’s an area where we are interested in investigating more. There are time and money savings with Linux on staff desktops,” Bell said. “The first student lab replaced Windows NT which was always a disaster due to no proper security.”

The Commonwealth Department of Education Science and Training’s CIO Tony Kwan said the department has done a lot of work in looking at open source.

“The Learning Federation has set up an open architectural framework to promote learning objects to try to maximise investments in developing learning material that’s open and re-useable,” Kwan said. “We are also looking at promoting the use of open source software.”

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