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FAA May Ditch Vista For Linux 359

Posted by kdawson
from the hello-Google dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Another straw in the wind: following last week's news that the US Department of Transportation is putting a halt on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7, today comes word that the Federal Aviation Administration may ditch Vista and Office in favor of Google's new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware. (The FAA is part of the DOT.) The FAA's CIO David Bowen told InformationWeek he's taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency's Windows XP-based desktop computers. Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. 'From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages,' he said."
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FAA May Ditch Vista For Linux

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  • training (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bizzeh (851225) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:09AM (#18260882) Homepage
    this isnt going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month. training staff to use an entirly new system takes a lot of time and money. i will be supprised if we see this take effect before this time next year
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, as everyone keeps saying. Funnily enough though I have yet to see anyone provide any figures, experimental data or case studies from non-biased sources that supports this. Now, I've no doubt that any new application deployment requires training the end users, but just how much and at what cost?
      • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bberens (965711) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @03:46PM (#18266224)
        That's exactly right. When a business changes to a new application it's not as if the business tells employees that they can get by completing 80% as much for the next few weeks. It's basically "Yes it's new and we expect you to be at 100% speed immediately, deal with it." And it sucks for the employee for a week or two while they have to semi-rush or work a few extra hours but it's not the end of the world. Typically the same salary IT person that has always been there gets stuck answering all the questions. The only additional cost is anyone involved who might be paid hourly, they might have to work a few extra hours. In my mind, it's not the end of the world.
    • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:17AM (#18260936)
      Can't they just employ immigrants who learned to use computers in order to get a job? We're not talking complex applications here like 3D or compositing apps, those who can't use generic email, word processor or spreadsheet don't deserve to have a desk job.
    • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

      by linguizic (806996) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:17AM (#18260940)
      What's interesting though is that the FAA seems to think that the costs associated with training will in the end be cheaper than an upgrade to Vista.
      • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:21AM (#18260970)
        "What's interesting though is that the FAA seems to think that the costs associated with training will in the end be cheaper than an upgrade to Vista."

        Don't forget that they'll need to retrain people for Vista and Office-whatever anyway. So it's not like one option is free and the other costs money.
        • Re:training (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Cadallin (863437) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:08AM (#18261956)
          Exactly, it isn't just the costs of upgrading to Vista, its the cost of upgrading to Vista + Deployment + Retraining. I would also suspect that the FAA probably pays for some kind of actual support contract. They will still want to pay somebody like Redhat for a support contract (and probably Google as well), and they will still incur Deployment and Retraining Costs no matter what. The question really starts to become, who do they believe provides a product with the best productivity/TCO ratio.

          Everybody's been through the Microsoft cycle multiple times now. Microsoft promises the world during development, but by the time a product actually ships, its years late, hugely over budget, and still has only 10% of the features originally promised (Remember Microsoft's database file system? The one that would revolutionize searches and data management and do away with folders? They've been promising that one since 1994 at least. It was supposed to be part of Windows 95!) And Microsoft's products End up having severe support issues during their lifetime (Business Crippling Worms anyone?) It heartens me that Organizations are really starting to think about going with other options.

          • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @01:54PM (#18264376)
            Probably most FAA systems run with a few forms-based applications sitting on top of some data base. They are not installing printers etc, the IT folk do that. Most likely very few people ever interact with the OS (except to reboot).From a user's perspective, it is not very hard to switch from one OS to another since the OS is hardly visible.

            There would, however, be traing for IT and support people.

      • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

        by greenguy (162630) <estebandido&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:16AM (#18261406) Homepage Journal
        Maybe I'm just a quick learner, but I can't see how Google Apps would require all that much training. Like everything of Google's that I've tried (with the exception of Google Ads, whose pricing structure remains mysterious), I found it had almost no learning curve whatsoever.

        Am I really that much smarter than the people who work at the FAA?
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:20AM (#18260958) Journal

      this isnt going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month. training staff to use an entirly new system takes a lot of time and money. i will be supprised if we see this take effect before this time next year
      Well, I'm not a systems integrator in real life but I've taken classes. One of the big things to consider here is the potential for an intermediary stage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Google's Apps are largely platform independent. What this means is that I can think of an instantly perfect intermediary stage--instruct the employees to use Google Apps while they still have XP and old Office applications on their machines. But, you know, give them a hard date by which everyone should be using Google Apps (oh, there's always problem workers but leave that to middle management). I assume the large thing these people rely on their computers for is simply these editing suites so once that barrier is broken, install Linux and give them quick 8 hour orientation classes in how to do the same things in Linux that you used to do in Windows (pretty minimal, I assume).

      Other option is just Vista & the new Office. Where at some point you just have to install the new Office (I don't think old & new can be installed at the same time) and make them use it. Now, while I'm sure Vista is more similar to XP than Linux and the Office applications are probably similar also, you know there's going to be bumps.

      That said, I don't think the transition to Google Apps on Linux would be any more painful than the transition to Vista running Office. I suppose time will tell though. Hopefully my assumptions are correct and this sparks interest on this huge cost savings?

      I guess if you really wanted to promote Linux, you would write tutorials on how to take advantage of this switch to Vista/Office and how to put your workers on Linux/Google Apps. When you make cheap and extremely convenient, they will come.
      • by BigBuckHunter (722855) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:37AM (#18261640)
        One of the big things to consider here is the potential for an intermediary stage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Google's Apps are largely platform independent.

        As are OpenOffice, MSOffice, and the majority of Windows applications (thanx to wine). If they have a particular desktop application that does not work under linux or wine, all they have to do is ask on wine-devel and it would be fixed like flies on stank because of how high-profile the situation is.

        BBH
      • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @12:09PM (#18262754)
        That said, I don't think the transition to Google Apps on Linux would be any more painful than the transition to Vista running Office.

        I don't know about that. This is the same Google Apps that many users got locked out of a couple weeks ago. Putting your productivity apps on someone else's servers just isn't a good idea. OpenOffice would probably be a much more prudent move.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by 511pf (685691)
          Putting your productivity apps on someone else's server is actually a great idea. You have no software licensing cost ($300-$400 per copy of Office 2007). There are little to no rollout or upgrade costs with a hosted app (someone actually has to INSTALL Office on all of the machines). You don't have to worry about patches, upgrades, backups or security and a hosted application is going to be down a lot less than the collective crashes of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint across all of your machines. T
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LurkerXXX (667952)
            Putting your productivity apps on someone else's server is actually a great idea. You have no software licensing cost ($300-$400 per copy of Office 2007).

            You don't have any with OpenOffice either, which was what my suggestion was for.

            There are little to no rollout or upgrade costs with a hosted app (someone actually has to INSTALL Office on all of the machines).

            If you have a decent administrator, those should be rolled out smoothly over the network to your machines, so the overhead for that is fairly low.

            Yo
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tmarthal (998456)
          I'm pretty sure that with the Professional version of the Google Applications, they install a server on your premises and it is managed by your IT staff.

          Same with thier GMail service at your domain.... they supply the server and software, you just pay them somehow.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ragefan (267937)

        But, you know, give them a hard date by which everyone should be using Google Apps (oh, there's always problem workers but leave that to middle management).

        Usually middle management *are* the problem workers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mackyrae (999347)
        As far as Office, OOo has a UI that is much closer to that of old MS Office than to Office 2K7. Very little moves going from old Office to OOo. Everything's weird in 2K7. Oh, and Google's web toolkit is Java-based, so if their apps are based on the web toolkit, then yes, they're platform independent thanks to java
    • Re:training (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:20AM (#18260966)
      I don't think training/timing is a big issue. Any time MS releases a major update like new versions of Vista & Office it requires a fair amount of retraining for non-technical people and even a lot of technical people. Since there's a retraining cost involved no matter what, then it's up to the company/organization to decide their best upgrade path, whether it's to the latest MS offerings or an entirely different platform.

      Personally I find the big news to be the fact that more and more corporations, governments, and entire countries, are using Vista/Office2007 as justification to seriously consider non-MS products. Granted it's still a very small percentage of MS customers that have done this so far, but if the groundswell continues and a number of these groups are successful, then it could just be the start of a trend away from MS dominance.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BlackPignouf (1017012)
      -Either way, the'll have to learn a new system, and the learning curve for Vista+Office2007 is rather steep.

      -Google's online business applications look a lot more like previous MSOffice than Office 2007 does.

      -Just put them a decent user-friendly distro, 3 bigs icons on the desktop to link to Gmail, one to GoogleDocs & one to GoogleSpreadsheet. Done!

      =>You won't need more than 2 days to explain them everything they need to know to get started, and you'll save a *lot* of money by leaving the Vista way.
    • Would upgrading to Vista would require training staff to use an entirely new system?
    • by WebCowboy (196209) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:52AM (#18262500)
      training staff to use an entirely new system takes a lot of time and money.

      Technical similarities to XP aside, Vista basically IS an "entirely new system" as well, from an end-user and administrative perspective. The UI has been messed with. Security, right from the user prompts down to alterations in driver architecture, has been altered significantly. Applications released roughly in conjunction with Vista (IE7 and Office 2007) have significant changes (new XML file formats in office, more strict compliance with XHTML and CSS in IE7...). Compounding that the benefits to business are minimal compared to XP in its current state. The business case to upgrade vs migrate is less convincing than ever before.

      It is nearly that case with my employer as well--we almost might as well move to macs or Linux vs. XP--the impact of Vista on the enterprise thereis nearly that big. Almost all of the intranet apps are designed and tested against IE6. Running them on Firefox is glitchy but it works, but using IE7 often completely BREAKS the app. Over three quarters of the products we sell will not function under Vista and never will ("next generation" replacements are being developed for release over the next couple of years). Fully half of the hardware we have is not "Vista capable". We have XP and it (mostly) works (good enough anyways). Why risk breaking what is essentially unbroken? Do we really need eye candy? We are already firewalled and antivirused to high heaven so is there any REAL benefit to Vista's largely unproven security enhancements? Which brings up the fact that our corporate antivirus stuff apparently breaks in Vista...

      FAA's serious consideration of Google's apps really looks VERY compelling and makes a lot of sense, even if adoption would be over a couple of years. The architecture of Linux is more proven and more secure by far than Windows XP OR Vista. The price per client is significantly less. Google's application-server-thin-client model is much less burdensome. Open and Free systems have much better "real" support (MS makes the argument that closed software gets better support because it is backed by a big, rich vendor but I think most people in the know realise that in practice thereis WAY MORE help and support for Linux because of backing by many vendors and a huge developer community, whereas only MS can offer certain levelsof support).

      I do thing that Vista is STILL very much on the FAA's horizon though. Government agencies as well as big corporations are coming under more scrutiny and are being more compelled to do due diligence and put as much up for competitive bid as possible--and get the best deal possible. MS' standard prices and offerings are VERY FAR from competitive since they've gone a long time without competing. Governmental agencies around the world are, as often as not, playing low cost Linux-based alternatives against Microsoft to "force Bill's hand" as it were. Even if Google's software suite falls short of requirements in the end, the FAA could very likely get a special sub-$100-per-user offer from Microsoft for Office upgrades.

      I'd hate to seeit turnout that way, but anything that cuts down MS (either inmarket share or insane profit margins) is good in my book.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by speculatrix (678524)
        when I install windows, I always redo the entire start menu. I also change XP theme to Windows2000, turn off the eye candy, turn off the annoying "remove unused icons", turn off the hiding unused menu entries, fix the quickstart bar... takes me half an hour tops. If vista is so damn configurable, it surely is possible to make it look sufficiently like Win2k or WinXP so no training required, and this would be a custom install so that trivial to rollout systems.

        My first step would be to migrate existing us
    • Re:training (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kennon (683628) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:59AM (#18262576) Homepage
      90% of the training argument is pure FUD. I personally have converted many windows users to Linux who had never even touched it before and they are up and productive within a day. Your average office worker (at least in my place of work) uses a word processor, web browser, email client, and one or two propriatary apps specific for their department which are almost all web based and are browser friendly. There have been a few time in which people have some app that cannot be a web app, or will only run in IE or something and we will deploy it to them via Citrix until either a Linux version is written or it is converted to a web based app.

      Funny enough, the hardest Linux converts are the Windows "Power users" because they no long know how to tweak...aka fuck up their new desktop. But for a large majority of office staff Linux either already is or could easily be working perfectly for them in almost no transition time.

      I personally believe that if all the over protective MCSE's in the world woke up tomorrow with a decent level of knowledge about the Linux desktop within a couple months Linux and Windows in the corporate workplace would trade places for market share.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:14AM (#18260906)
    They need to bundle that up in a appliance so they can sell it to enterprises that do not wish to
    store their data out of house.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by endianx (1006895)
      I agree 100%. I think that is the future of software. Not applications that run on someone else's server, but ones that run on your own (but still not on hundreds of desktops).
      • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:28AM (#18261026)
        Fast internet access for business customers is still somewhat expensive. Connecting to your own server in-house with a fast LAN will be cheaper in many cases.
      • by TheVoice900 (467327) <kamil&kamilkisiel,net> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:45AM (#18261144) Homepage
        The 1960's called, they want their computing paradigms back. Future of software? More like the past, we're coming full circle...
        • by suv4x4 (956391) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:24AM (#18261508)
          The 1960's called, they want their computing paradigms back. Future of software? More like the past, we're coming full circle...

          It won't be the first time we're coming full circle in computer technologies (or elsewhere), it doesn't mean that he's wrong. Do you think "organic food" is a thing of the past? It's pretty modern franchise these days.

          In computer software, we see interpreted languages coming in an out every few years. When I had my Apple II, the primary means of programming it was an interpreted Applesoft Basic script.

          As computers advance and more performance is required, the interpreters become full-blown compilers (C, C++, later Basic compilers), but then the needs for flexibility arises and today we use lots of interpreted languages again (JavaScript, PHP, Perl, ASP, Ruby, Java).

          And yet again the need for performance converted those to compiled language in the mid term (later Java runtimes /JIT/, .NET which is compiled on demand, although stored as source or bytecodes). Microsoft even has C# compiler now which compiles to machine code with no CLR dependencies now (as used in their popular research OS - Singularity).

          Still the portable version of .NET interprets... as a mobile device has no enough RAM to do the compilation and store the result, which is ironically the same reason Basic was interpreted on Apple II-s to start with.

          The notion that the future of software is to store absolutely everything remotely, like is the case with Google apps, is a very shortsighted one. It's a current short-term / mid-term trend.

          There's already lots of talk about rich clients which support "interrupted connectivity", which is, web apps that have lots of functionality even when you have no internet (i.e. with laptop on the go etc.). These apps operate by usually having a small and simple web-server or runtime and SQL database embeded in them, along with ability for rich caching of remotely downloaded assets. Examples include the upcoming Firefox 3, Adobe's Apollo, Microsoft's WinFX (aka NET3) and so on.
    • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:30AM (#18261554) Homepage
      Definitely. If Google started selling application appliances. Wow. Not only do you get the ease of central management, but if Google does it like they do everything else, it'd be easily scalable. I'd imagine the answer to "We need more processing power / Disk space" would be to add another appliance or so, and make a single config change. This is really exciting stuff, if it evolves to that point.
      • by markov_chain (202465) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:10AM (#18261980) Homepage
        Hey, I know, we could put all these appliances into some kind of enclosure with common power, cooling, and even super fast backplane. We would probably need to keep these "frames" in climate-controlled rooms. The main "frame" would serve the most common apps, and if some offices needed some specialized stuff they could buy small versions, kind of like miniature computers! Hah, I kill myself.
    • by Svartalf (2997) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:36AM (#18261634) Homepage
      Google Apps, the way they're doing it, can't be assured to be secure. It's a nifty idea, but
      unless you LIKE the idea of a potential information leak (including business critical and identity
      type information...), you probably don't want to be using their service unless you've no other
      choice.

      An Apps appliance probably would be a way around this problem. Buy one like you buy some of their
      search engine cluster as an appliance for indexing your intranet and exposed Internet presence-
      that way you get the security and control you need (Though make no mistake, while it is more secure
      than what the FAA is now proposing, it's not as secure as OO.org would be on a desktop...)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by misleb (129952)
      Still, how do you do basic stuff like mail merges w/ Google apps? How about non-trivial print control? I mean, last I checked, HTML is not a very good markup language when it comes to print layout. I bet printing labels will be a pain. I think users are going to really miss some of the power of desktop office suites. Even if it is only a few people in the office every once in a while. That can be enough to drive the adoption of something. That is pretty muych the reason people use MS Office int eh first pl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:15AM (#18260916)
    From the article: If Microsoft can satisfy his concerns over compatibility with the agency's existing applications and demonstrate why such a move would make financial sense given Google Apps's low price

    Sound familiar? It seems like the tried-and-true tactic of publicly looking into Linux so Microsoft will rush in and offer support and discounts. Hopefully, they are seriously considering Linux regardless.
    • by codepunk (167897)
      Yep noticed that they are doing a little "Price Phishing"....
    • $75 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      The problem is that even at $75 for Vista and Office 2007 combined, the problems still don't go away. WinXP with Office 2003 was also overpriced, but at least it worked reasonably well.
    • Already there (Score:5, Informative)

      by gr8_phk (621180) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:20AM (#18261458)
      "Hopefully, they are seriously considering Linux regardless."
      FAA is outsourcing the whole flight services infrastructure to Lockheed. A rep from Lockheed gave a presentation to our local EAA chapter on the new system and it's rather cool. Each person gets a multi-head display and all the software is running on Linux. I don't recall the distro. So when you call in for a weather report or to check if there are TFRs in your flight path, you will be talking to a guy running Linux. It makes sense for the FAA to switch because they will likely want access to the same software. The only downside is that there will be fewer of these people, so you may be talking to someone far away who doesn't know the local area and local weather.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpsmps (178373)

      Sound familiar? It seems like the tried-and-true tactic of publicly looking into Linux so Microsoft will rush in and offer support and discounts. Hopefully, they are seriously considering Linux regardless.

      And this is bad because...? This is why monopolies are bad and competitive markets are good. I'd say this is the expected benefit of having two credible choices available: prices, however you measure them, go down. Whichever is chosen, Linux has already helped ensure that the FAA will pay a market-set ra

  • by brennanw (5761) * on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:15AM (#18260922) Homepage Journal
    ...

    Maybe I'm thinking of a different Google apps, but how is running Google software more secure? Aren't google apps accessed from google servers? Doesn't that mean this government agency would be running applications from and storing data on servers they aren't maintaining?

    I'm not saying that google makes lousy software, I'm just saying that I would be nervous if I couldn't actually directly manage the servers that were responsible for creating and storing the information.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Aren't google apps accessed from google servers? Doesn't that mean this government agency would be running applications from and storing data on servers they aren't maintaining?

      Then there is the obvious issue of having documents stored in a repository that is by nature openly accessible on the internet. Users already do a massively lame job of creating/maintaining/securing passwords. Now that, admitidly sometimes weak, physical barrier is gone, I can see major issues. Of course that's an easy fix by f
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)
      He didn't say that Google was more secure. He only said that there would be advantages when it comes to security and management. The FAA like the DOT are two agencies that usually operate in the public eye. Unlike the DOD, they really don't have much to hide. So if an FAA document was compromised by hackers, there wouldn't be much damage as it would have been public anyway. I'm thinking that's what he meant.
    • by encoderer (1060616) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:53AM (#18261206)
      We're talking about US Government documents being stored on non-government servers. First, I'd be really surprised if something like that was even legal. Second, I have real issues even if it IS legal.

      If the "ditch" office/windows they're going to have to use GMail for ALL DOCUMENTS. Anything else would have to be like .txt or .pdf that's emailed around (probably using google servers again, so it's moot).

      Furthermore, tell me this slashdot: Why is it better to be locked-in to Googles proprietary software instead of Microsofts?

      As others have said, this would only be a good idea, IMO, as a "GApps Appliance" that can be properly audited and approved by US Government security experts.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gkhan1 (886823)

        Of course it's legal. Why wouldn't it be legal? The government can use contract private enterprises to do anything they need, whether it be data storage or building a house. Also, ever heard of the Freedom of Information Act? 99% of the stuff stored on those servers will be open to the public anyway (I suppose air-port security stuff and on-going investigations and the like would be the exceptions), so there is not like there is a pressing need to hide it.

        I would also like to point out that it is not neces

      • by mysticgoat (582871) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @11:37AM (#18262334) Homepage Journal

        We're talking about US Government documents being stored on non-government servers. First, I'd be really surprised if something like that was even legal. Second, I have real issues even if it IS legal.

        Okay, I can follow that logic. It's sort of like the way US Government agencies do not use private financial institutions to manage their money, but keep it all in Fort Knox, and use only Fort Knox Credit Cards? Huh?

        Google's specialty is high volume data management and security, and they take that very seriously. If they cannot yet do a better job for less cost than any business or agency whose main purpose is something else, then I would be very much surprised.

        Perhaps the government should establish a National Data Management Agency for its own information needs, at the cabinet level. But that won't happen with this administration: it lacks the foresight and considers "intelligence" to be disinformation that will permit them to invade Middle East countries.

        Hmm, possibly establishing a USNDMA would make sense. The USDVA (Veterans Affairs) already has a massive data sharing network for the CPRS (Computerized Patient Record System). It wouldn't be much of a reach to build out from that for all other government data. A USNDMA that was hardened against earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, etc, might be a good idea, and perhaps cost less than the total the individual agencies are already spending on data security and management.

    • by EMeta (860558) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:14AM (#18261392)
      If I had to leave important FAA information on a server, I'd feel safer with Google than from either the lowest bidding or highest bribing IT company for the FAA.
    • Do you think that use of proprietary software, and especially an operating system is any more secure? That damned Windows XP computer may be uploading all your documents through your Windows 2k/2k3 server to Microsoft HQ, and you'll never know.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mysticgoat (582871)

      Maybe I'm thinking of a different Google apps, but how is running Google software more secure? Aren't google apps accessed from google servers? Doesn't that mean this government agency would be running applications from and storing data on servers they aren't maintaining?

      I think that's the idea.

      It's sort of like a company getting rid of its security force, armory, strong room and safe, and putting all its money in a bank. Wow, what a novel concept!

  • Great to see someone thinking about ditching software made by a monopolistic behemoth in favour of the little guy!

    Oh wait, Google apps? never mind.
  • by bconway (63464) * on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:18AM (#18260944) Homepage
    But the article fails to mention why the XP systems need replacement. Any organization as conservative as the FAA no doubt waited a year or two before rolling out XP, so even the earlier systems are only a few years old, and probably far from slouches. Why does the release of Vista necessitate an upgrade, especially if you aren't going to be upgrading to Vista?
    • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:25AM (#18261002)
      But the article fails to mention why the XP systems need replacement.

      Simple. MS says they won't support XP after a given date. After that date the FAA (and everybody else) would have to upgrade to Vista to continue getting support from MS.

      If the DOT/FAA goes with linux they'll likely go with a vendor like RedHat or Novell who will offer full support services without arbitrary drop-dead dates for support, much easier upgrade paths, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
        Sometimes I wonder if the support angle is a crutch. Any large organization should have enough people qualified enough to manage the systems without any help from Microsoft. If there is some mysterious valid reason to need support, I'm surprised they can't buy a long term support contract anyway, MS does sell support for supposedly EOL software. I think the DOD has support contracts for VAX/VMS through to 2012, so an extra three years from Microsoft isn't an unreasonable demand, and I think Microsoft can
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SixFactor (1052912)
      Like some (maybe most) corporations, they probably have a hardware life cycle. It could be that, like where I used to work, the XP rollout was done on Celerons (well at least they were Socket 478). Instead of having to upgrade hardware to the semi-bleeding edge because of Vista, the FAA may be opting to go low-end, hence the seeming interest in a thin-client strategy. This is a smart move for them to look ahead; for budgeting purposes, and the possible downward effect the effort will have on Vista prices
    • Any organization as conservative as the FAA no doubt waited a year or two before rolling out XP

      And any organization as conservative as the FAA will begin evaluating their options and planning their next steps at least a year or two before they implement anything.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:20AM (#18260960)
    1. Some CIO flirts with the idea of migrating to a different platform in order to get a better deal on licenses.
    2. Vendor with monopoly rushes in with truckloads of licenses at "discount rates" to secure their position.
    3. CIO returns with whitepaper indicating a TCO in favor of monopoly.
    4. ???

    If the "ditch" occurs, then that would be news.
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@gmail.TIGERcom minus cat> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:22AM (#18260988) Homepage
    You can't outsource security [e.g. oh look google is so much better at keeping our documents secure] any more than you can outsource responsibility. Why isn't this guy simply looking at Open Office, or hell the other free tools like AbiWord, Gnumeric, etc.

    Ah, to be ignorant of technology, but rife with enough buzzwords to be dangerous.

    Not only are the google versions of the tools not nearly feature complete, but they're over the internet. Thus guaranteed to be sucktastically slow (especially when a lot of people use it) and very likely insecure in the end (hint: gmail has already had a few goofs). I'm all for ditching Windows, but using online office tools is just short sighted. Within a year or two of the switch they'll be climbing back into bed with MS Office [no doubt].

    Also, if you're just going to use AJAX based web tools, what does it matter what OS you run?

    Tom
    • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:48AM (#18261174) Homepage Journal
      You can't outsource security [e.g. oh look google is so much better at keeping our documents secure]

      Of course you can. For many organizations, handling document security is a major problem. Even basic stuff like backups is a major PITA

      But even more than that, presumably one of the things he was referring to is the security implications of having people download "stuff" that may or may not be legitimate documents, and accidentally running it (and don't even try to give me shit about how there aren't any real viruses for Linux - if a major government agency starts relying on Linux boxes, you can bet someone, somewhere will start looking at ways to use it for intrusion). Yes, lots of apps have far saner policies about running things than Office has, but avoiding downloading files from mail accounts entirely in favor of processing those documents outside of your normal environment whenever possible would have the effect of limiting the potential damage further.

      It's not that a webapp is required to do that, but that Google's apps present a possible way of doing it that is convenient and available.

      Not only are the google versions of the tools not nearly feature complete, but they're over the internet. Thus guaranteed to be sucktastically slow (especially when a lot of people use it)

      Maybe, maybe not. Google Spreadsheets handle a lot of Excel files that breaks badly in Open Office for me, and it's also FAR faster to open a document in than Open Office is on my box, and far less resource hungry to just keep open, which reduces the time to open even more. If I'd been editing lots of large spreadsheets instead of mostly viewing the occasional small one, perhaps Google Spreadsheets would be a pain, but for MY use it's actually far more efficient than Open Office. Haven't tried Gnumeric for a while, and I rarely need a word processor but when I do Abiword just haven't cut it for me (I tried it again a couple of days ago, and the printouts of the document I tested it on just came out horrendously ugly).

      Also, if you're just going to use AJAX based web tools, what does it matter what OS you run?

      It matters because the IT department has to manage the systems regardless what apps you run on them.

      • OpenOffice is not the only OSS office tool out there. AbiWord and Gnumeric spring to mind (both open way faster than OpenOffice).

        And while you may think you're delegating responsibility you're still ultimately responsible. If I give company ABC my CC info to buy a product from them, then they choose to pass it off to someone else that I didn't authorize to process the payment, and eventually I learn that they did something fraudulent with it. You can be damn sure I'll hold ABC responsible, if not legally
    • by Sique (173459) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:07AM (#18261328) Homepage

      You can't outsource security [e.g. oh look google is so much better at keeping our documents secure] any more than you can outsource responsibility.


      Of course you can. Security is one of the oldest businesses ever outsourced (that means taken away from your own employees/slaves/servants and given to a foreign group for money/treasures/valuable gifts). What do you think the name 'soldier' comes from? It's a person working for sold (from latin solidus = a Roman gold coin), not because of loyality or proudness or legal requirements. Having foreign groups serving as your protection is one of the oldest tricks in the book because you hope that the foreign people are ignorant about your internal struggles and intrigues or don't have any local alliances, and if they aren't as independent as expected, you might replace them without fear of a local unrest.

      That's the business of Pinkerton and all the other security agencies, and even outsourcing bookkeeping and document production, exchange and storage is old news. Every middle age town had its writers or calculators whose business was to work for the local traders who weren't able to write or didn't have the calculatory knowledge for bookkeeping. And even today you go to a solicitor if you really want your documents to be correct, authentic and secure.
  • seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:22AM (#18260992) Homepage
    Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. 'From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages,' he said."
     
    What about openoffice.org surely its more secure than an internet app.
  • the Federal Aviation Administration may ditch Vista and Office in favor of Google's new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware.

    The FAA issued a pilot advisory for the Seattle area: Pilots should be aware of the potential to encounter flying chairs any time they are east and slightly south of Seattle center controlled airspace.

  • Big Discount Stick (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frogstar_robot (926792) <frogstar_robot@yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:38AM (#18261094)
    I'd like to believe such a thing is being seriously considered but it's probably just the same-ole same-ole. Some poor MS salesdroid is going to be thwacked bloody until he comes across with big discounts and free consulting services and training for a Vista deployment. Still Linux has to be a least a credible threat for that to work. I wonder how many Aerons have come to a splintery end because of Linux induced discounting.
  • by thatjavaguy (306073) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:38AM (#18261098)
    The guy is just trying to get his MS license costs down - sensible enough.

    Whats the betting that after his Microsoft trip they will come up with a vastly reduced price?
  • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:40AM (#18261110) Journal
    They should just tell Microsoft - give us Windows XP for 5-7 more years OR we go Linux.

    After all apparently Windows XP already works OK for them, and new computers capable of running Vista tolerably will run XP pretty well ;).

    It'll be crazy for the FAA or DoT to switch to Vista, there are only a handful of pluses for them (nope DirectX 10 support is not it), whereas there are so many minuses - trouble with drivers, trouble with compatibility, costs of retraining and support, lower performance (so far most of the benchmarks indicate that Vista is slower even for office apps) etc.

    Then after 5-7 years, maybe Linux/Wine will have a decent Windows XP compatibility layer and the FAA and others can continue running their apps on a free OS of their choice (or a commercial Microsoft Windows compatible competitor ).
    • it would be a lot shorter that 5-7 years if they were prepared to spend a bit of money getting the apps they want supported.
  • moral? (Score:2, Funny)

    by blakmac (987934)
    The FAA has a real problem when things crash.
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:44AM (#18261138)
    .... as they'd have to deal with this all of the time.

    - A plane is about to land. Cancel or Allow?
    - A plane is about to take off. Cancel or Allow?
    - A transport truck is about to crash. Cancel or Allow?

    You'd get sick of having to click Cancel or Allow all of the time too.

    Oh wait.
  • Will never happen (Score:5, Informative)

    by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @09:45AM (#18261146)
    I work within the DOT, there has been no discussion of linux or Mac replacing windows, the discussions are about not upgrading to Vista and Office 2007/IE7 due to inconsistancies with the custom applications, and much of the hardware would need to be replaced, not even upgraded, but totally replaced.
    • I would suspect that is one reason that the Mac is not considered. Definitely you would have to replace all hardware. Linux is a viable alternative depending on the functions of each worker. Now if the FAA made ODF the standard format then OpenOffice and Linux is looking better.
  • by halfdan the black (638018) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:12AM (#18261378)
    I've tried them (Google apps). The web based word processor is roughly identical to wordpad (free with Windows), or the text editor with OSX. This is a MASSIVE reduction in functionality compared to word or open office. I do not understand how this web based word processor can be used for anything more complicated than a simple memo. I suspect that if you put down any user remotly farmiliar with MS-Office and force them to use Google apps, there will be some serious revolt. Put them behind Open Office, which may be somewhat different than MS Office, but HAS SIMILAR CAPABILITIES, that user will learn to use it with possibly minimal rumblings. What is wrong with Open Office? Why would anyone choose Google apps which have I estimate 5% of the functionality of Open Office ??? So, IMO, any web based attempt at anything as remotely complex as a office suite is going to suck so freaking hard compared to a desktop application, no mater what the platform be it Linux, OSX or Windows.
  • by Svartalf (2997) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:31AM (#18261568) Homepage
    Security is NOT one of the things I'd be claiming, using a third party to provide my app
    functionality by remote. If I were the person in charge, I'd probably nix this one about
    as fast as the DOT did Vista and Office 2007. Simply put, you can't guarantee anything
    about information leakage, snooping, and so forth with this model.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @10:34AM (#18261604) Homepage
    ...always have your Ubuntu mug, your Debian mug, and your iPod lying on your desk.
  • by mergy (42601) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @12:54PM (#18263364) Homepage
    An executive from a big organization X is looking at upgrading his Microsoft-centric network of products. He thinks he will get a good deal from MS because he is a big shot and the company or government agency is a big deal. He is shocked at the initial price MS comes back with. He knows he is not going to rip-out all the MS stuff across the massive network but really has no other way to bargain other than issuing a release saying he is evaluating (Redhat/Suse/ and now Google) and wants bargaining chips to take back to MS.

    Let me tell you the end of the story for all of you, MS comes back and gives the software away on the initial upgrade pricing but nails them to the wall for years on support.

    In 5 years, rinse and repeat.
  • by HighOrbit (631451) * on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @12:56PM (#18263412)
    From TFA interview with FAA chief information officer David Bowen

    Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. "It's a different sort of computing strategy," he said. "It takes the desktop out of the way so you're running a very thin client. From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages."
    ....
    Bowen said he's in talks with the aviation safety agency's main hardware supplier, Dell Computer, to determine if it could deliver Linux-based computers capable of accessing Google Apps through a non-Microsoft browser once the FAA's XP-based computers pass their shelf life. "We have discussions going on with Dell," Bowen said. "We're trying to figure out what our roadmap will be after we're no longer able to acquire Windows XP."


    I'm sorry, but do you really think Dell is going to enthusiastically push thin clients? AFAIK, Dell isn't even in the thin client business, they are in the PC business. Dell has an interest in dooming this from the start in order to protect their PC business. This CIO Bowen has no idea of where to go with this, so somebody needs to whisper in his ear. He needs to talk with Sun, since they have considerable experience with Sunray thin clients [sun.com]. Maybe even Neoware thin clients [ibm.com] from IBM/Lenovo.
  • by rehtonAesoohC (954490) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @01:43PM (#18264156) Journal
    That title is totally misleading... They're not ditching Vista for Linux... They're thinking about the possibility of ditching Vista in favor of google applications. Google applications running on Linux has no bearing on the fact that the FAA is choosing google applications...

    That's like saying: "I like Hondas better than Fords because the gas tank is made with different materials."
  • by An dochasac (591582) on Wednesday March 07, 2007 @02:18PM (#18264754)
    FAA (after several extremely expensive false starts) finally deployed a flight control system to replace the Sperry-Univac 8300s. You'd think they would have learned something from these mistakes, but there are several things that scare me about this:

    1) The fact that Windows Vista (an unproven not yet released OS) is being considered for mission critical systems.

    2) The fact that Government might tie a crucial part of national infrastructure to any single company (Microsoft or a high-flying dot com)

    3) The fact that Linux was considered but not BSD, OpenSolaris, OSX and any number of other OSs suggests that the FAA still doesn't understand their problem, instead they focus on a sole-source vendor who can claims to be able to solve it, whatever it is.

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