Bye Windows: Korea is on the move toward Linux

[German]In South Korea, the government is on the move to get rid of its dependence on Windows to some extent. Three large organizations have decided to exodus from Windows and plan to switch to Linux.


I had already reported in May 2019 in the article South Korea's government migrates from Windows 7 to Linux about the plans of the South Korean government to switch to Linux. The following tweet from Bogdan Popa (Softpedia) brought new information to my attention. 

The basis are probably new articles in the media appearing in South Korea that after the end of support for Windows 7, they want to migrate away from Microsoft and towards Linux. I have prepared an article (in Korean) in the best possible way, because it offers interesting insights. The article here on asks the question whether the goal of the South Korean government to migrate from Windows to Linux in six years at the latest can work.

Government relies on Open-OS and has a plan

The South Korean government plans to use an open desktop operating system called Open-OS. This is to be based on Linux and is to be set up by Korean software developers. The long-term goal is to use Open-OS at all workplaces in public administration. Currently, the following roadmap is available.

  • First, the Open-OS introduction strategy was defined in February of this year,
  • in October, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security will then introduce Open-OS on some external network PCs.
  • After that, the government plans to introduce an open operating system instead of Windows in 2026.

The main reason for the South Korean government's call for an open operating system is to reduce excessive reliance on Windows. In South Korea, 92% of systems run on Windows and the government is forced to follow Microsoft's guidelines, which are perceived as one-sided.


Support end of Windows 7 and saving costs

One reason explicitly mentioned is the end of support for Windows 7. The government has estimated the cost of discontinuing the provision of security updates for Windows 7. It is expected to cost 780 billion won (about 602 million euros, 658 million US $) to replace the Windows 7 PCs in government agencies with Windows 10.

The government expects to reduce the (license) costs of 70 billion won (approx. 54 million euros, 59 million US $) per year by introducing an open operating system. The expectation of the South Korean government is also that this transition will lead to South Korean companies entering the OS market, which is currently monopolized by foreign companies, and working closely with domestic companies to solve security problems.

Migration has already begun

Furthermore, the South Korean Post will change from Windows 7 to TMaxOS. This is a Linux-based operating system, which is developed by the South Korean company TmaxSoft. I already reported about TMax some time ago (see my German article Koreanisches TmaxOS: kann Windows, iOS und Android-Apps from 2016).

Other ministries have already switched a part of their workstations to Linux and are working on plans to extend the introduction to other devices. For example, the Ministry of National Defense and the National Police Agency are currently using Harmonica OS 3.0, which is being adapted with a number of Korean applications, while the Ministry of Public Administration and Security has installed the locally developed Gooroom cloud OS based on Debian.

Three variants of Open-OS

I find interesting that in South Korea intends to use three types of open operating systems:

  • Inveium 'Harmonica OS',
  • Gooroom 'Cloud OS'
  • and Tmax A & C 'Tmax OS'.

All three variants are based on Debian, and have been adapted accordingly. Since the kernel, the core of the operating system, is compatible, you can install and use more than 90% of the thousands of Debian Linux apps.

Discussions, positive and negative examples

Of course, the approach does not happen without controversial discussions. For example, some people are worried about the government's policy, because they know negative examples. Among other things, the Korean medium writes that the government has rarely succeeded in replacing a Windows workstation PC with an open operating system.

Interestingly, the Korean article lists LiMux as a negative example. In 2003 the city administration in Munich decided to use Linux instead of Windows. But in the meantime Munich is returning to Windows – I have reported in the blog. Quote from the Korean article: German civil servants accustomed to Windows did not adapt to Linux and had to spend a lot of operating and administration costs of about 60 million Euros for the administration of the operating system, although savings of 11 million Euros were expected.

But a positive example is also mentioned: Last year the Chinese government decided to introduce "Girin OS", an open operating system based on Linux, at the state workplaces. However, it is not intended to introduce Kirin OS on all PCs, but the plan is to test it in some selected institutions and then extend it to all public institutions.

The government of South Korea plans to analyze abroad the cases of switching from Windows to Linux and to carry out the migration without their errors. It is hoped to minimize the negative effects of introducing an open operating system.

Not all desktops will be Linux-driven

Windows will not disappear in South Korea's public institutions after 2026 either. The government's plan is to reduce the current Windows market share from 99% to 50%. And there's another interesting piece of information in the article: Currently, the employees of the South Korean central government use two physical PCs at work: an external network PC (for the Internet) to access external Internet services, and an internal network PC (for businesses) for internal tasks. This concept of using separate PCs is in response to external security threats such as hacking.

Therefore, the government of South Korea only wants to convert the Internet PCs to Open-OS (i.e. Linux). Internal network PCs on which government employees perform important tasks will continue to use Windows as the operating system, among other things to increase productivity. This is also the reason not to introduce an open operating system on every public sector PC. You only need to convert half of the desktop systems.

Interesting solution until 2026

By 2026, most employees will be working on a single laptop running Windows instead of two desktop PCs. The laptop can only perform internal tasks. Open OS for External Business is delivered as a virtual desktop (VDI) via a cloud server.

To access external services, employees must run a terminal program on their laptop and then access the open operating system installed on a cloud server. This environment, which runs in the cloud without installing an operating system, is delivered as a desktop service (DaaS).

The reason why the government is pushing the adoption of open operating systems with such confidence is because there are already successful cases. In December last year, Korea Post (Ubon) introduced an open operating system as a VDI solution for external network PCs.

The Korea Post Ubon secured 11,000 licenses for Windows 10, Tmax OS and Cloud OS. Employees can now access an external Internet network via VDI using an open operating system (Tmax OS9). There are some services that cannot be accessed, e.g. some homepages that cannot yet be run. However, the evaluation within Ubon showed that the handling of most external tasks is not a major obstacle.

The government plans to change the services that cannot be run on an open operating system in cooperation with the companies. When an open operating system is introduced for government external network PCs, it is also expected that frequently used website plug-ins will disappear. Such plug-ins are Windows dependent and are not available on open operating systems.

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