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Linux may power South Korean schools

An all-Unix plan is also being considered, but the open-source OS will likely dominate the system, sources say.

South Korea's education ministry could soon switch to the Linux operating system--a further testament to the growing popularity of open-source software among regional governments.

The project, which would rank as one of the largest Linux installations in the country, aims to link all primary and secondary schools and relevant government departments through a common system known as the National Education Information System.

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On Friday, business consulting and IT services provider BearingPoint submitted a final proposal to South Korea's Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development for the project.

In its report, the company recommended that Linux be used for 2,000 out of 2,700 servers in the National Education Information System. Each of these Linux-based servers would cater to a particular high school or so-called special-purpose school. The remaining 700 servers would be based on Unix. Each Unix server will be shared by a group of 15 elementary and middle schools, BearingPoint said.

The company had also submitted an alternative Unix-only proposal, but sources close to the project said the South Korean government is inclined toward the Linux-Unix combination.

"It is under evaluation. But I can say that open source is likely to be adopted," a government representative said. The ministry plans to announce its decision in mid-September.

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According to Jung Yong-Kyun, BearingPoint's consulting manager for the project, Linux was chosen as the operating system for the majority of the servers because it can handle the traffic from the dedicated servers at a lower cost.

"Unix performed slightly better than Linux at the group server tests. So we decided to suggest Unix for those parts," Jung explained.

In Asia, the South Korean government is a major supporter of the open-source movement, so a move to Linux by the Ministry of Education would not be a huge surprise.

Last September, South Korean authorities announced plans to replace a large number of proprietary computer systems in the public sector with open-source alternatives by 2007. The government said it will also promote open-source options for future projects.

Beyond domestic efforts, South Korea has also joined hands with Japan and China to jointly develop a version of Linux that will serve as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows software.

Other governments have also recently embraced Linux, although one, the city of Munich, recently halted its migration to the open-source OS while legal issues are being settled.

Sejin Kim of ZDNet Korea reported from Seoul.