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The move highlights a trend among large European organisations, several of which are shifting to open source to cut costs.
The French Ministry of Equipment will replace 1,500 Windows NT servers with Mandrakesoft's Linux corporate server software. The move follows Allied Irish Bank switching 7,500 desktop PCs from Windows to a Linux-based Java system earlier this month.
In its latest report on open source software adoption, analyst firm IDC said Western European organisations will spend an estimated £53m on services based on Linux, open source and free software in 2004, rising to £123m by 2008.
IDC said more public sector organisations will begin open source migration projects in the next two years.
Dominique Raviart, senior research analyst in IDC's European services group, said, "Large enterprises have looked cautiously at free software or Linux. It is quite interesting that the public sector mainly in Germany, France and a few Nordic countries is now transitioning from the assessment phase to migration projects.
"The market needs a number of large and visible deals. Recent announcements in Paris, Munich, and Norway [Bergen] in the public sector are helping.
"There have been few UK migration projects. However, the Allied Irish Bank migration of 7,500 desktops from Windows to SuSE, Sun Star Office and Mozilla may influence the UK market."
Raviart added that the free software and Linux community is capable of offering large organisations adequate support, help, and tools over the internet. He also said they tend to release updates and upgrades much more frequently than proprietary software suppliers.
Neil Macehiter, research director at analyst firm Ovum, said, "The UK has been less positive as a market to open source, though this is starting to change. For US open source companies, the UK is not the first port of call. They tend to go to the rest of Europe first."