IRD strategy shifts to Microsoft

Ongoing relationship with Novell 'confidential', Inland Revenue says

Inland Revenue appears to be shifting strategies, deploying virtual desktop technologies from Microsoft that require a Microsoft email system and Windows operating system upgrades on desktop and laptop PCs.

In answer to Computerworld’s enquiries last week, the department issued a brief statement saying the project will provide a “more integrated and future-proofed outcome”.

The move represents a change of solution design and development, an IRD spokeswoman says, but what kind and extent of that change is not clear from the department’s brief statement.

In 2005, Inland Revenue tested Linux, a small number of its 7000 PCs. It told The Dominion Post at the time that it expected to decide whether to become the first department to adopt open source desktop software in 2006.

IRD’s CIO Ross Hughson said at the time that completely replacing Microsoft on the desktop was “a possibility, but I wouldn’t say it’s a probability at this stage”. He said the business was “up for grabs”.

IRD runs Novell’s SUSE Linux on many of its servers.

In April a Cabinet Minute noted funding for an upgrade of the Novell operating system used by customer service staff and the migration of 130 Inland Revenue-specific applications and 5000 databases to “a supported desktop computer operating system”.

Now, IRD’s spokeswoman says the department expects the work will be delivered within budget and within the original time frame.

“We made the decision in July after a review of our desktop refresh project, to confirm technology directions remained in alignment with our business strategy. This path will achieve the most strategic and cost-effective result,” she says.

An anoymous source prompted Computerworld’s enquiries. That source had heard that a major project at Inland Revenue had been dropped halfway through and months away from deployment.

“From the rumours that I have heard, the decision has been made (in the space of months) to halt the Novell upgrade and to replace the entire environment with a Microsoft solution,” the source said.

In May, negotiations for an all of government deal on Microsoft software procurement, called G2009, broke down. Subsequently the State Services Commission has been advising agencies on how to deal with Microsoft directly and about alternatives to the company’s technology.

In answer to a further query, IRD says it still has a contract and relationship with Novell, but the nature of that is "confidential".

A call to Novell was not immediately returned.

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