NZ school ditches Microsoft and goes totally open source

A New Zealand high school running entirely on open source software has slashed its server requirements by a factor of almost 50, despite a government deal mandating the use of Microsoft software in all schools.

At Linux.conf.au 2010 in Wellington, deputy principal Mark Osborne and staff from Open Systems Specialists demonstrate Albany Senior High School's firewall system, using pupil Shane to represent a packet.

At Linux.conf.au 2010 in Wellington, deputy principal Mark Osborne and staff from Open Systems Specialists demonstrate Albany Senior High School's firewall system, using pupil Shane to represent a packet.

Despite only using Windows on a virtualised session for student management software, which is only available on that platform, the school doesn't get any credit for the reduced spending. "The brilliance of Microsoft's business model is they get the same amount of money regardless of who uses it," Osborne said. However, the school has saved significantly in other areas, such as not needing specialised routers to handle connections to the Watchdog system used to filter school internet connections.

In 2010, Albany SHS will move into new purpose-built premises, which include a dedicated server room. Brennan noted that the architects designed the space based on standard New Zealand school requirements, including four racks each capable of holding 48 servers for its main systems. The main infrastructure only requires four servers, suggesting an almost 50-fold saving on hardware requirements.

Despite the dominance of Windows, teachers and students were largely receptive to using the software, Brennan said. The main area of objection was over the use of particular packages. "There's a perception that students should train with real-world products," Brennan said, but that was outweighed by the advantages of being able to give every student access to any software they needed, rather than having to restrict use because of limited licences, especially in specialist areas such as music.

"I would love for every school in the country to be free and open," Osborne said. "There's a lot of barriers to that, but there are definitely existing schools that are beginning the process of moving to having an open setup. We've shown that it's possible. "

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