Linux out, Windows in at Electoral Commission

The NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) will leave Linux for Windows Server when it develops its new vote counting and reporting application, which is slated to cost A$1.4 million over the next two years.

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NSWEC information systems manager Ian Brightwell said the desire to redevelop the application relates to the difficulty in supporting a legacy development environment.

"It's half PowerBuilder and half Java for batch processes and this environment is increasingly difficult to support," Brightwell said.

"There is a swing library for UI development which is also not easy to support."

Running on an Oracle 9i database on a "specific version" of Linux, the application will be modernised in .Net on Oracle 11g on Windows Server 2008.

Most applications are already using Oracle 10g at the NSWEC, but the road map is to port everything to Oracle 11g on Windows.

Brightwell said the organisation had a previous bad experience with Linux which helped it decide to move to Windows.

"We first tried out 10g on Linux on a HP server which had processor management features that Linux did not support so we had to make an eleventh hour move to Windows," he said.

"We are a small organisation and when you have experiences like that you don't rush back there. We can't test whether Linux is compatible with hardware and compatibility can be problematic with Linux."

Brightwell said the NSWEC has been able to solve all its technical problems with Windows through its partnership with Microsoft so it is a case of "reducing risk" by choosing Windows.

The NSWEC has limited in-house development resources with only "six people at the most", which is why is is seeking a partner for this software development project.

This applications is not related to electronic voting as the voting process has a number of aspects, including administration (electoral roll) and the process of voting which is all paper-based. Then there is the counting and recording of votes.

Brightwell said the NSWEC would consider requests for the new software to be released to the public for scrutiny, but "we have never had that request".

"In practical terms our concern is these systems are large and complex and require precise skills to understand and, as such, if someone did have trouble interpreting it that would place a large burden on our resources. It's a cost resource impact issue that is our major concern," he said.

That said, the NSWEC does have people audit the software in "critical parts" of the system.

This story, "Linux out, Windows in at Electoral Commission" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.

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