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July 10, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

The West German government’s decision to formalise its backing for X/Open in January was only the latest milestone in what has been a long-term user and supplier drive towards Unix. In contrast to the situation in most other European countries, landmark Unix-based automation projects in regional and central government were already well underway three to four years ago, and the knock-on effect means that Unix is now filtering right down into local government sites. On the supplier side, Siemens’ contribution to the growth of the market is considerable; in stark contrast to its own stolid image and to the strategy of other European suppliers, the company pushed a Unix product line long before users began demanding the operating system.

Black and white

In 1988 International Data Corp estimated that Siemens had 32% of the $700m multi-user Unix systems market in West Germany, with Nixdorf and NCR taking 10% and 8% respectively. IDC consultant Jonathon Portch estimated government spending could comprise 60% of the total German Unix market, with the commercial sector being, as expected, slower to move until their suppliers do so. Many of the big commercial, financial and other services organisations that are moving are Siemens mainframe customers buying Siemens distributed systems. In some countries, it’s hard to pin down the extent of government support for open systems. In Germany, it’s there in black and white, in the January 22 document emanating from the Federal Ministry of the Interior recommending the use of an operating system complying with the latest valid edition of the interface definition of the X/Open group. Furthermore, the document says suppliers should typically update to new versions of the XPG on request from the user (within 18 months). The recommendation applies to mid-range systems. The widespread backing that resulted in the production of the recommendation will probably ensure that it is generally adopted. The recommendation was produced by KBSt, the government’s information technology co-ordination and consultancy office, in agreement with IMKA, an inter-ministry committee that co-ordinates procurement policy. According to KBSt representative Rainer Mantz, the recommendation followed a unanimous IMKA decision in favour of X/Open by officials representing all central government ministries. To date, there is no equivalent policy on Open Systems Interconnection, but the government is expected to issue recommendations for several standard protocols for information exchange including X400. However, the German administration is decentralised to an extent that a high proportion of systems procurement takes place at regional level or within large public organisations such as the Bundespost, and central government has no direct control over the strategy of these organisations.

By Mike Faden

At the end of 1988, internal estimates suggested that about 1,700 systems were installed in central government, although this relatively modest figure has been increasing rapidly. Current central government budget runs at $470m. Outside central government, some orders have been much more eyecatching. Most spectacular example was the Bundespost’s framework agreement announced in 1988, trumpeted as a German market breakthrough by Unisys – the other named vendor was Siemens – and estimated by vendors at anything from 1,000 to 5,000 systems. Progress since has been less spectacular. Each of three major divisions of the Bundespost appears to be making its own moves to implement office automation using the systems. The result is that several major office automation vendors – including Uniplex, which only started shipping localised product last year – have been claiming some sort of victory. As we went to press, however, the communications component of the Bundespost was expected to formalise a deal for Applix’ Alis, which is represented in Germany by Mbp GmbH. Sources said the division installed a pilot 200-user Alis system back in 1987 and the next major implementation could be for as many as 3,000 users. The largest of th

e other early contracts, the Bundesanstalt fur Arbeit employment offices was split between Siemens and Nixdorf – no news on whether implementation plans would change as a result of the merger – and was estimated by Wolfgang Schulz, Siemens product manager for Sinix, the company’s Xenix-derived Unix, at around $60m. Other reports put the value at treble that and said up to 12,000 terminals would eventually be installed.


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Numerous regional Lnder have also implemented Unix, but the biggest and earliest endorsement came from North-Rhine Westfalia, Germany’s biggest Land with some 17m people. As in central Government, Unix has the status of an official standard since an April 1988 order; Unix and the X/Open guidelines are used for all new mid-range systems, according to state data processing co-ordinator Hermann Lossau. The result, he added, is that to date at least two thirds of all installed decentralised systems run Unix. That proportion is planned to eventually reach 100%. Nordrhein Westfalen’s Landesamt fur Datenverarbeitung und Statistik, which is a member of X/Open’s user advisory council, has an important role. A large shared data processing centre, it has experience of a disturbing number of proprietary systems either in-house or distributed round the Land, including IBM and Siemens mainframes, Nixdorf, Bull and Kienzle small systems. The Landesamt played a large part in building up initial Unix experience and putting forward Unix as a standard; a key effect of using Unix is to cut down the effort required to support systems from different manufacturers. Lossau said the main use of Unix systems to date is for office automation and other administrative functions – Q-Office and Informix being particularly prevalent. Like central government, Nordrhein supports the use of OSI, but is finding that OSI is at rather an early stage. However, Lossau emphasised, We are very interested in all questions of standardisation. If there is a possibility for standardisation, we will go that way.

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