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Some 400 IT managers and other decision-makers from throughout Northern Europe explored the business climate, for GNU/Linux specifically and Open Source generally, in Helsinki last week. Government ministers as well as IT people from academia, large and small businesses and even a monk listened and debated with some of the leading lights of the GNU/Linux world. And The Register talked to a couple of local success stories.

Brother Viktor is from Valamo Monastery, the Finnish Orthodox Church's only monastery. Valamo is located in the midst of the lake region of eastern Finland and supports itself chiefly through tourism, hosting more than 100,000 visitors a year. It runs its hospitality operations on Windows clients, but is in the process of switching to Oracle on Linux.

"We began using Linux at the beginning of 1998," Brother Viktor explained. "We run the usual stuff like firewall/router, web server (including a web store) and email, with the main infrastructure, and then also your typical disk and print sharing for Windows clients, and of course the centralized backups." The conservation laboratory also runs on Linux.

"We switched to Linux from OS/2," he concluded, "because Windows was too expensive, both in terms of licence fees and hardware needs, and possibly too unreliable."

Likewise Åbo Akademi, Turku, is the only Swedish university in bi-lingual Finland. It began its first Linux project in 1998, according to Tomas Lindroos, Systems Analyst. But even as early as 1996 there were some Linux workstations in the Computer Science department. The school runs it for its IMAP, Apache, DHCP, Print, and Install servers, many of its workstations and its Web Kiosks.

"We chose Linux, Lindroos said, "because it's more economical, you can run it on cheaper hardware and you don't need licenses for the operating system. Where we would otherwise have Sun Solaris, we have moved over to Linux because it provides the same facilities/capabilities, but cheaper. And on some things it does better, like the web server is Linux running Apache. So it wouldn't make sense having an expensive Sun server doing things like that."

Lindroos explained that automated installation and administration with Linux accounts for much of the cost effectiveness of the system. "It greatly reduces the amount of work you have to do manually. When you have hundreds or even thousands of computers, it's really time-consuming to do it by hand. This way, you put the Linux boot-floppy in, the machine boots up and installs everything needed, making various required configuration changes at the same time."

SOT Finnish Software Engineering Ltd, Summit hosts, announced its expansion into the Russian market with the opening this month of an office in St. Petersburg. Santeri Kannisto, CEO of SOT explained, "We have experienced a shortage of skilled GNU/Linux and Open Source programmers in Finland, and St. Petersburg is now a significant recruiting area. SOT's recent growth has created a need for additional skilled software developers. We are seeking to meet this need in St. Petersburg." ®

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