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Dawn Kawamoto

Staff Writer, CNET

Linux company Red Hat, which is trying harder to attract public-sector customers, said Wednesday it has created a government business unit.

Red Hat also said that it has landed a new government customer: the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories and technology centers. Under the seven-year agreement, Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be broadly deployed at the labs and tech centers.

The Linux company has been building up its base of government customers since 2002 when it launched its Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Other government customers include the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. General Service Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense.

“Open source is a logical fit for government due to the incredible attention paid to (IT) standards,” Paul Smith, the Red Hat vice president heading the government business unit, said in a statement.

Red Hat recently teamed up with the National Security Agency and open-source community to collaborate on a security-enhanced version of Linux, also known as SELinux.

Meanwhile, foreign governments are also adopting open-source technology.

Last September, Denmark’s Ministry of Finance implemented an open-source project for its data exchange system. The agency cited cost in its selection of open-source technology over Microsoft’s systems integration application, BizTalk Server.

And in 2003, the city of Munich, Germany, also decided to defect. The government voted to switch 14,000 computers to Linux, rather than continue its multimillion-dollar contract with Microsoft.

In related news, Microsoft announced a public-sector program on Wednesday. The Security Cooperation Program calls for Microsoft to share information with government agencies on network security issues related to its software. The move as seen as part of the software giant’s effort to blunt the appeal of open-source alternatives.