The open-source movement has received another boost with an announcement from the South African Revenue Service that is will migrate its SAP system onto Linux.

SARS has awarded the server platform portion of its tender to Novell/SuSE Linux, which will run on Dell hardware in terms of a pre-existing hardware supply contract. The support and maintenance part of the tender has yet to be awarded, says SARS CIO, Ken Jarvis, but this will go to a local Novell partner.

Jarvis explained: "We have been looking at OSS over the last 12, 15 months - talking to vendors and experimenting internally. We finalised our open source strategy late last year, the first phase of which is to start using OSS on the server platform. The intention here is to remove some of our resource-intensive mainframe applications onto a server platform, where the cost of ownership is significantly reduced.

"This is quite a bold step for us, and we have been very cautious. We looked carefully at it first to try and understand all of the implications. Thereafter, we started talking to SAP, locally and in Germany, about how it felt about taking the system off the mainframe, onto an open source platform.

"Once we felt comfortable that this was achievable, we went to tender for a server platform of choice, and Novell won with SuSE. We are fairly confident that it will work well, and already have it up and running in our development environment.

"The next step will be to move PeopleSoft off the mainframe. Our overall intention here is to free up resources on the mainframe, rather than upgrading the mainframe. This is the best cost option to do that. We think the open source platform is stable enough to handle the availability we need." It is this confidence that will prove such a boost for the open source community in SA overall.

The head of Novell in South Africa, Stafford Masie, was understandably pleased: "That such a high-profile public sector CIO and department have elected to move to Linux is of paramount importance. This is the ultimate endorsement that Linux is enterprise-ready. Wins like this will increase demand for Linux, which will filter down by way of increased demand for skills and services. We are already seeing a positive ripple effect in terms of increased momentum behind other migration exercises in which we are involved."

Jarvis says that while SARS is looking at migrating its desktops, it is still early days yet. "We are at least six months away from making decisions," he said.