[FSF India] [NEWS] UK Government Adopts Linux WebServers

Raj Singh fsf-india@gnu.org.in
Mon, 6 Aug 2001 15:05:06 +0530 (IST)

UK Government Chooses Linux

Wednesday, 20th October 1999 

When the time came to replace the ageing Sun Solaris machines that the
British Government employed to run its web sites, the CCTA (Central
Computer and Telecommunications Agency) the agency that advises UK
Government departments on the use of technology, and which also runs the
web sites, chose Linux. The fact was noticed by Netcraft , which has a
service that can detect which OS and Web Server are in use on any site.

In actual fact NetCraft picked up the fact that the British Royal Family
are now Linux users, but this does not imply partiality by Her Royal
Highness to the open source movement. The CCTA actually switched all UK
Government web sites over to Linux following internal tests. The
Government Information Service systems manager Mick Morgan described the
decision as a "no-brainer". He was impressed by the reliability that was
evident from the tests that were done and remarked that "the Linux on
Intel combination blew Sun out of the water". So now the 85 web sites run
by the CCTA run on five Dell 23000 Dual Pentium II 450 machines with 512
MB RAM each and 27 Gigabytes of disk. The Linux version is Red Hat 5.2
with Apache 1.3.3. All of this has to be very sobering for both Sun and
Microsoft. Microsoft cannot realistically pursue the line that Linux is
not enterprise ready when it is the choice under test, by the official
government agency, for the largest user of computers in the UK - the
Government. The work by the CCTA confirms our own research in this area,
just as we go to press. Linux is robust and it is reliable and it scales
well enough to run a very very large web site. In case you wondered, the
Royal web site is one of the most active government sites in the world
often clocking a million visitors a day and accommodating much more than
that when there is some compelling royal news.


See http://www.open.gov.uk/ for more information.

open.gov.uk is a service provided by the Central Computer and
Telecommunications Agency (CCTA).

History of service

CCTA began work on investigating the possibilities for the development of
information superhighways in March 1994 with a feasibility study. In mid
1994 CCTA published a consultative report, "Information Superhighways,
Opportunities for public sector applications in the UK". This report
outlined potential applications that would be made possible by the advent
of digital information superhighways. This stimulated useful debate within
the UK and CCTA received much positive feedback on the report.

As a result of this response CCTA held a meeting in November 1994 in order
to develop the consultative process and lay the foundations for the UK
exploitation of the "Information Superhighway". At this meeting the CCTA
Government Information Service (CGIS) - www.open.gov.uk - was launched as
a pilot Internet service to investigate the technological and information
issues associated with the electronic delivery of information and services
to the public.

The service was launched with the following objectives to:

* support the objectives of the Citizen's Charter and Open Government

* publish government information

* provide a single point of entry for people who want access to government

* provide a service which is simple to use

* provide low cost access

* provide a means by which government departments could gain experience of
publishing information on the internet.

The service still has these objectives but is now available to any public
sector organisation.

The advent of Modernising Government has added greater importance to, and
expanded on, these objectives.

Since 1994 we have developed considerable expertise in all aspects of
running a web site and publishing on the World Wide Web.

Our site is now one of the largest and busiest public sector sites in
Europe and is highly regarded throughout the world. In the UK its position
as a leader in the field of World Wide Web publishing and developments has
been recognised by many in the public and private sectors. The service has
been awarded many prizes and commendations in acknowledgement of this
achievement. One Award committee commented that 'this project has set the
guidelines for the use of the Internet within Government for the next few

The Internet arena has continued to move forward at quite a speed. More
recently we have seen more sophisticated and efficient video and audio
technologies, the use of dynamic applications to serve web-based
information, Internet shopping and more secure methods of carrying out
transactions across the web, to name but a few of the new developments. We
have been keeping pace with many of these advances, reflected by our ever
increasing range of products.

Here are some of the key milestones which this service has gone through in
this time.

August 1994	comencment of service
December 1994	service receives 35,000 accesses a week
April 1995	service receives 1,000,000 total accesses since launch
May 1995	service receives 2,000,000 total accesses since launch. We
		stop counting total accesses at this point and just record weekly
August 1997	over the course of 10 calander days the service receives
		35,000,000 accesses, mainly due to the death of Princess Diana
August 1999	service averages 14,000,000 accesses a week


CCTA has collected a number of awards over the years for the open.gov.uk
web site. here is just a brief summary of the major ones. Computing UK
internet user of the year Computing UK Internet User of the Year

John Horam, then Minister for Public Service, said:

"I am delighted that 'Computing' has recognised CCTA's achievement in
providing this service. The Government Centre for Information Systems
deserves credit for opening up the Information Superhighway and providing
information to people electronically. Increasingly, organisations and
individuals are able to access government information around the clock.
This award demonstrates the Government's commitment to using leading edge
technology to improve service to the public."

Magellan 4-Star Award

The highest rated UK Government site on the World Wide Web. magellan says:

"Vast Web sites are rarely better organized and navigable than this one
created by Great Britain's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency.
The CCTA Government Information Service Web site allows users to
effortlessly locate an enormous range of UK government information and
services. Searches can be performed through a number of indices, news
updates are readily available and linked to relevant sites, and government
online projects are showcased. There is also a server information page
containing tips on how to create a Web site and an eminently useful help

Lycos top 5% web site in the world

It's a good thing the United Kingdom isn't as big as, say, the United
States, because then this list of government sites would be enormous. As
it is, the listing (indexed alphabetically or by subject) is pretty large.
Whether you're looking for acts of parliament, the Metropolitan Police of
London or the "Andrew" (that's the Royal Navy), you'll find the pages of
scores of organizations here. And we're not talking about a few lines of
fluff at these sites -- many offer statistics, pictures and otherwise
hard-to-find info. Just browsing through the list is fun, too: you'll come
across great agency names, like "Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution."

Excite 3 star site

The highest rated UK Government site on the World Wide Web. Excite says:

The British Government and all its appendages are here. You will find the
upmarket Cabinet Office, the decidedly downmarket Hertfordshire County
Council and everything in between. Links to the Royal Observatory and
museums too. Useful.

NetGuide gold site, the highest rated UK Government site on the World Wide

If you really want to track the royals on a daily basis or read what
Scotland Yard has to say about the death of a police prisoner, here's
where you access the UK government's handouts. You can tap into other
information from the Bank of England, Cabinet Office, Crown Prosecution
Service, Department of National Heritage, Lord Chancellor's Department,
Ministry of Defence, Office of Telecommunications, National Criminal
Intelligence Service, and others that take the somewhat irregular pulse of
the sceptred isle.

Innovation in electronic government

CCTA are pleased to announce the following awards received from
'Government Computing' magazine.

* CCTA Government Information Service received the 'Innovation in
Electronic Government Award 1996'.

* The Government On-Line Project received the 'Special Award for
Innovation for Electronic Government Award 1996' jointly with the Treasury
Board of Canada.

* The Award for Electronic Government for Central Government Suppliers for
GCAT, the Government Purchasing Catalogue for IT equipment, shared with

Networking industry awards 1996. The judges said:

"It's not often the Government comes up with an innovative use of
technology but the CCTA project was the winner. Easily the most ambitious
development that was entered into this category, this project has set the
guidelines for the use of the Internet within Government for the next few

Copyright 1999, CCTA