Discipline-specific communities are an effective form of cross-institutional cooperation used by IT specialists.

OPSI4Institutes (o4i) is a network of academic institutions that implement the Open Source-client management system ‘OPSI’ developed by uib. The network is part of the German National Research and Education Network, DFN. OPSI4Institutes is a community which enables institutions to communicate, coordinate and share information with one another and, where feasible, provide individual services, packages or knowledge.

The existing cooperation between the ‘Berlin Social Science Center’ (WZB) and the ‘Georg Eckert Institute’ (GEI), both members of the Leibniz Association, led to the development of the DFN mailing list 'opsi4instituts' and a discipline-specific WIKI. Many finished and continuously updated OPSI software packages (currently 67) are available in a repository; upload is secured by DKN-PKI. This process enables the development and update of software packages to be coordinated and distributed within the community. Automatic synchronisation with the ‘trusted repository’ greatly reduces the workload for the individual institutions.

More than forty academic facilities are now involved; including research associations, universities and technical colleges and those from other fields. The administrators of these organisations use OPSI to manage their networks, which may consist of anything from 30 to 2,800 clients.

SW package life cycle

In addition to overseeing the software packages for the joint repository the GEI also provides an information update service, independent of manufacturer. Automated, standardised e-mails regarding updates and fixes from over 130 software products from diverse manufacturers are sent over the mailing list ‘opsi4instituts-notify@listserv.dfn.de" (Subscribe, then ‘Confirm-Mail’...). The related mailing list archive is easy to search, using the package name as the subject, for example: ‘firefox’ or by date, for example: ‘since April 2016’.