The NHS is to buy 5,000 licences for Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) as an alternative to Windows, a move that could potentially open the door for greater use of open-source software by the health agency.
The NHS is currently implementing a £5 billion (US$9 billion) programme to upgrade its ailing IT infrastructure. It began evaluating the potential use of Sun's open-source desktop system last December. JDS includes the company's StarOffice productivity suite, a Gnome desktop and the Mozilla Web browser, which Sun has touted as a comprehensive open source alternative to Windows.
The NHS' National Programme for IT confirmed this week that it had licensed JDS for "tactical deployments" within the health care service, adding that it deemed JDS a viable desktop alternative for certain types of user communities.
An NHS representative could not elaborate on exactly where in the agency's sprawling system, incorporating tens of thousands of users, the software would be deployed. A Sun representative said that details of the deployment were still being discussed. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
The JDS adoption comes while the NHS awaits approval from the treasury department on a recent agreement to license Microsoft's desktop software. Details of that agreement have not been released. Microsoft is deeply involved in the National Programme through its health partner in the UK, iSoft.
National Programme Chief Technology Officer Duncan McNeil has waxed positive on the merits of open source. In a statement released this week Duncan said that he continues to view the use of open source software and open systems architecture as "a key way of achieving best value and systems interoperability in the future."
Sun's Java System is already being used as the enterprise infrastructure software supporting the NHS' Care Records Service.