The Russian Post has started testing the free software to be used in ordinary post offices. Cutting costs for software is one of the main reasons to migrate to Linux. No details are reported. However, according to some sources, the Russian Post might prefer Red Hat.
The Federal State Unitary Enterprise Russian Post has started testing the free software to be used in the Russian post offices. CNews managed to find out testing had been launched in Pushkin, St. Petersburg Suburb. The Russian Post reports testing will last for 2-3 months.
Aleksey Kuzmin, the acting deputy director general of the Russian Post, supervising IT maintenance of the Russian Post, refrained from reporting any details. However, he related the test launched to the recent visit of Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat’s president and CEO, to Russia. Early in March 2008 Mr. Whitehurst and the Russian Post management (together with the management of the RF Compulsory Health Insurance Fund) signed ‘a protocol of intention to develop information systems on the basis of the free software’.
Aleksey Kuzmin did not clarify, whether any other solutions were being tested together with Red Hat.
Meanwhile, he told CNews, it was too early to speak about any definite choice regarding Linux distributives, as the Russian Post ‘was in the process of making an appropriate decision’. According to Mr. Kuzmin, ‘such a large enterprise as the Russian Post needs time to make the right decision’.
Mr. Kuzmin does not exclude the applied mathematics used by the Russian post might operate in Linux under the Windows emulators. He says such a model is being tested now.
If the experimen is a success, Linux might be installed on more than 125 thousand computers in 42 thousand post offices
The Russian Post accounts migration to the free software for cutting losses. In February Aleksey Kazmin, the new director general of the Russian Post, announced the net losses of the federal state unitary enterprise accounted for 4.6 bn rubles ($195.088 m) for the previous year, which was a 60% increase as compared to a year earlier.
If the experiment launched is a success, more than 42 thousand post offices with more than 125 thousand computers will migrate to the new Linux-based software. Aleksey Kuzmin told CNews the first Linux installations were likely to be held on the work stations of public internet access point.
It is rather complicated to assess the economic efficiency of Linux installation on such a number of computers. ‘The free software implementation is especially profitable when replicated, - says Aleksey Novodvorsky, deputy director general at ALT Linux. – For example, if the point is of open solutions implementation in polyclinics, municipal institutions or in post offices. In such cases the maintenance fee is much less than the costs for licensed proprietary programs’. Mr. Novodvorsky says the same relates to the free software, when no licence is needed. Otherwise, one should carefully consider the conditions, under which the free software is offered.
Although the Red Hat Enterprise Linux is an open system, it costs nothing. When buying Red Hat, one has to pay not for the licence but for the manufacturer’s maintenance. Depending on the distributive version the Russian retail price fluctuates from $140 (for desktops) to $7,500 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform).
In addition to commercial Enterprise Linux, the Red Hat Corporation supports the developers’ community of the Linux Fedora distributive, which is absolutely free.
The Russian Post comprises 85 branches, 40 000 post offices with 390 000 employees. More than 1.3 billion letters, 3 billion periodicals, 24 million parcels and over 130 million money transfers are processed and delivered annually. The Federal State Unitary Enterprise Russian Post was set up under restructuring the federal postal communications agencies. Its prime target is to provide universal postal services throughout the Russian Federation, to enlarge the range of postal services and to create a modern postal infrastructure.