How Munich rejected Steve Ballmer and kicked Microsoft out of the city

Breaking up with Microsoft is hard to do. Just ask Peter Hofmann, the man leading the City of Munich's project to ditch Windows and Office in favour of open source alternatives.

The project took close to a decade to complete, has seen the city wrestle with legal uncertainties and earned Munich a visit from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose pleas to the mayor of Germany's third largest city not to switch fell on deaf ears.

Munich says the move to open source has saved it more than €10m, a claim contested by Microsoft, yet Hofmann says the point of making the switch was never about money, but about freedom.

"If you are only doing a migration because you think it saves you money there's always somebody who tells you afterwards that you didn't calculate it properly," he said.

"Our main goal was to become independent." Peter Hofmann, project lead

"That was the experience of a lot of open source-based projects that have failed," Hofmann noted. They were only cost-driven and when the organisation got more money or somebody else said 'The costs are wrong' then the main reason for doing it had broken away. That was never the main goal within the City of Munich. Our main goal was to become independent."

Munich is used to forging its own path. The city runs its own schools and is one of the few socialist, rather than conservative governments, in Bavaria.

Peter Hofmann speaks in Berlin
Peter Hofmann speaks about Munich's open source migration at the Linux Tag conference in Berlin.
 Image: Stefan Krempl

Becoming independent meant Munich freeing itself from closed, proprietary software, more specifically the Microsoft Windows NT operating system and the Microsoft Office suite, and a host of other locked-down technologies the city relied on in 2002.

The decision to ditch Microsoft was also born of necessity. In 2002 the council knew official support for Windows NT, the OS used on 14,000 staff machines at the council, would soon run out. The council ordered a study of the merits of switching to XP and Office versus a GNU/Linux OS, OpenOffice and other free software.

As well as being tied to Windows upgrades, Munich faced becoming more tightly locked into the Microsoft ecosystem with each passing year, Hofmann said.

"Windows has developed from a pure PC-centred operating system, like Windows 3.11 was, to a whole infrastructure. If you're staying with Microsoft you're getting more and more overwhelmed to update and change your whole IT infrastructure [to fit with Microsoft]," according to Hofmann, whether that be introducing a Microsoft Active Directory system or running a key management server.

"If you're staying with Microsoft you're getting more and more overwhelmed to update and change your whole IT infrastructure." Peter Hofmann

Free software was ruled the better choice by Munich's ruling body, principally because it would free the council from dependence on any one vendor and future-proof the council's technology stack via open protocols, interfaces and data formats.

The prospect of such a high profile loss, and other organisations following Munich's lead, spurred Microsoft to mount a last ditch campaign to win the authority back. A senior sales executive at the time told general managers in EMEA "under NO circumstances lose against Linux." Steve Ballmer himself took time out of a skiing holiday to make a revised offer in March 2003, followed two months later by Microsoft knocking millions of Euros off the price of sticking with Windows and Office.

The lobbying failed to change Munich's mind, and in June 2004 the council gave the go-ahead to begin the migration from NT and Office 97/2000 to a Linux-based OS, a custom-version of OpenOffice, as well as a variety of free software, such as the Mozilla Firefox browser, Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client and the Gimp photo editing software. It became known as the LiMux project, after the name for the custom Linux OS the council was rolling out.

Making sense of the IT zoo

Nine years is a long time for a desktop migration by anyone's standards, but the LiMux project was always going to be more than a simple transition.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came to Munich and made the case for sticking with Microsoft software.
 Image: James Martin/CNET

Originally planned as a soft roll out that would be complete by 2011, the project was extended when it became clear that the migration to free software would be more challenging than first thought.

The complexity came down to the way IT was managed at Munich: twenty two different units handling IT for different parts of the council and each with differences in the Windows clients and other software they used, varying patch levels and no common directory, user, system or hardware management.

"[The council] had 22 different units with their own IT, with totally different kinds of systems for the networking, operating and user directories. It was all a big zoo," said Hofmann, adding there was no detailed overview of the hardware each user relied upon or the software they needed to do their job.

Without a clear picture of its IT estate, Munich found it was taking too long to deal with unexpected problems thrown up when rolling out LiMux.

"If you set up an old PC with the new system you'd start recognising 'Whoops, that isn't there or there's hardware that needs to be reconfigured' and at that stage that's clearly too late. You have to know what's going on before you roll it out."

"We planned a slow migration, carrying out the migration and the development of our LiMux client in parallel." Peter Hofmann

Munich chose to standardise processes for capturing each department's infrastructure and requirements and for testing and release management, at the cost of adding several years to the project's completion date.

"That took a large amount of time to get over these heterogeneous systems," said Hofmann.

A single unit was put in charge of maintaining and supporting the LiMux client, as well as implementing and providing common tools for user and system management.

The nature of the project had changed, from a desktop migration to cleaning up much of Munich's IT infrastructure and the way it was managed - a move in keeping with the council's motto for the project: "Quality over time".

In spite of the delay in completing the project, Hofmann said the authority had always planned to take its time.

"We never planned to carry out a big bang migration. From the start we planned a slow migration, carrying out the migration and the development of our LiMux client in parallel."

LiMux logo
Munich focused on The IT Evolution as the logo for its custom Linux platform.

The time taken to complete the project is one of many reasons that Microsoft has attacked Munich's move to LiMux. A report criticising the project, produced by HP for Microsoft, claimed the Redmond software giant could migrate 50 to 500 desktop PCs per day if upgrading to a Microsoft OS and office, suite compared to the eight per day it said was being achieved under the LiMux project.

However, by Hofmann's reckoning, that slow and steady migration is one of the reasons the project has largely managed to stay within its budget with minimal disruption. The project finished within budget in October 2013, with more than 14,800 staff migrated to using Limux and more than 15,000 to OpenOffice.

Retooling for Linux

A myriad technical challenges emerged as Munich tried to reconfigure an infrastructure littered with proprietary formats and protocols to play nicely with LiMux and free software.

Large chunks of the software used by the council were built using Microsoft technologies. For example, a sizeable proportion of Microsoft Office macros were written in Microsoft's programming language Visual Basic, while other departments were tied to Internet Explorer by a dependence on ActiveX. This preponderance of lock-in interfaces was described as "awful" in 2010 by then deputy head of the LiMux project Florian Schiessl.

LiMux screenshot
This screenshot of LiMux shows the major customization that Munich has done to Ubuntu.

As would be expected, the council has had to shell out a chunk of change on getting applications to work on LiMux - a custom-build of the Ubuntu flavor of Linux - some €774,000 as of last year.

At the time the migration started, the council used about 300 common office software programs, such as web browsers and e-mail clients, and 170 specialised apps tailored to different roles performed by the council. These specialised apps ranged from large-scale IT systems down to macros and templates linked to Microsoft Office.

Understandably, migrating these apps to run on the LiMux OS is one of the areas where choosing LiMux over Windows cost Munich, with the work on migrating apps to LiMux costing €200,000 more than porting them to a newer version of Windows.

Offsetting that is the estimated €6.8 million savings the council says it had made as of last year from not having to licence a new Microsoft OS and office suite.

The lion's share of Munich's applications, about 90 per cent, are accessible via LiMux. Most have been ported, while others are running as web apps, inside virtualised containers or via terminal servers.

A small number of apps have proven impossible to port, make accessible or switch away from - particularly software whose use is mandated by the German government - and have to be run directly on Windows machines.

While the council has weaned itself off the majority of Microsoft technologies, Munich still experiences friction where it rubs against proprietary software in widespread use elsewhere.

"We thought from the start we would have other organisations follow us but it's really not easy." Peter Hofmann

One of the main complaints from Munich staff using LiMux and OpenOffice is about incompatibilities with Microsoft Office. Documents, spreadsheets and other files display some fonts, pictures and layouts differently in OpenOffice than in Microsoft Office, and changes to some documents are not properly logged.

Munich hopes to ease some of these problems by moving all its OpenOffice users to LibreOffice, a process which will get underway at the end of this year. Munich has worked with other users of LibreOffice, including authorities in the German city of Freiburg and the Austrian capital Vienna, to pay for updates to LibreOffice that should improve interoperability with Microsoft's office suite.

The complexity of moving from proprietary software after years of being a Microsoft shop might explain why more organisations haven't followed in Munich's footsteps, and why some, like the German municipality of Freiburg, have given up on their own shift to open source. Last year Freiburg scrapped plans to move to OpenOffice claiming it would have cost up to €250 per seat to resolve interoperability issues.

"We thought from the start we would have other organisations follow us but it's really not easy," said Hofmann.

Cost

Hofmann's warning against justifying the jump to free software on cost alone seems well-grounded given how hotly Microsoft has contested costings for the programme.

Microsoft claims that, by its estimation, the LiMux project would have cost considerably more than Munich has said. The HP report for Microsoft put the project's price at €60.6m, far more than the €17m Microsoft claimed it would have cost to shift to Windows XP and a newer version of Microsoft Office.

LiMux migration timeline

Munich stands by its assertion that it has cost the council less to drop Microsoft than it would have to have stuck with it, and says Microsoft's figures are based on bogus assumptions.

The final cost will be released at the end of 2013, but in August 2013 Munich said it had cost €23m to shift to LiMux and OpenOffice. Munich says this is far less than the estimated €34m it said it would have cost to upgrade to Windows 7 and newer versions of Microsoft Office.

Where does the truth lie? Well Munich makes a good case for why much of the work carried out during the LiMux project would have been necessary if the council had decided to opt for a newer version of Windows, and how it has saved money on top.

By choosing to swap to LiMux and OpenOffice Munich was able to keep using its old PCs for longer, something that Hofmann said would not have been possible if it had chosen some of the recent versions of Microsoft Office and Windows 7.

Extending the lifespan of its PCs in this way had saved the council some €4.6m as of last year, according to its official figures.

And by Munich's reckoning, the same standardisation of the council's tech infrastructure and administration would have eventually been necessary whatever the OS and office suite chosen, said Hofmann.

LiMux workstations chart

Training thousands of the council's staff to use a new OS and software is another area where Munich believes the council would have faced equivalent costs for both Microsoft and LiMux - claiming it would have set them back €1.69m regardless of the system.

"If we would have switched to Microsoft Office, the costs for the e-learning platform would have been the same, and the new GUI for MS Office would have required the same amount of training," said Hofmann.

"[In fact] the GUI in OpenOffice is much more like MS Office 2000 than the new MS Office GUI."

Similarly the €6.1m bill for personnel to oversee the migration process would have remained the same regardless of whether the council moved to LiMux or a future Windows OS, in Munich's estimation. Currently up to 18 people work at any one time work on development and maintenance tasks relating to the operating system and office software for LiMux and Windows.

Freedom to work

While many businesses might balk at the thought of not having a support contract to pick up the pieces when their OS and office software goes wrong, Munich feels far from adrift, said Hofmann.

Munich's Victory Gate
Victory Gate is a symbol of the City of Munich. Its Linux migration declared victory in October 2013.
 Image: iStockphoto/tzeiler

A team of just 25 people at Munich develop, roll out and provide final support for the Ubuntu-based LiMux client. A larger number of people look after the everyday administration of the city's PCs but far fewer than the 1,000 people cited in the Microsoft/HP report as implementing the LiMux project.

The authority doesn't have a support deal for the LiMux client, but instead handles support itself with the help of various free software communities, such as those supporting Ubuntu, KDE, LibreOffice and OpenOffice.

"We are using the community way of support," said Hofmann. "We are finding it to be effective, mostly."

The model is allowing the council to help develop the software it uses in order that it better suit its needs.

"If you're only a customer with a support contract, it doesn't give you the ability to change how things are put into Ubuntu or LibreOffice," said Hofmann.

"That becomes more possible when you work with the community."

"We are using the community way of support." Peter Hofmann

The same staff who develop LiMux are also responsible for the last level of support, Hofmann said, adding the authority prizes the freedom it has to work out how to resolve problems on its own.

"We had an issue with OpenOffice in the past and a support contract wouldn't have helped us because nobody else has this sort of problem, so we would have had the choice to live with it or forget about it," said Hofmann.

Instead Munich paid a company to resolve the issue for them, and put the patch upstream.

"The only downside is there's no-one to blame when things do go wrong, but what's the advantage of that?" Hofmann said.

What does the future hold?

Now that the migration to LiMux is complete, Munich plans to continue developing LiMux (the next version is due out in summer 2014) and continue to incorporate changes made to the Ubuntu LTS release it's based upon. The authority will also continue to identify opportunities to migrate other apps to run on the LiMux client so it can further reduce its Microsoft footprint.

Picturesque Munich
Picturesque Munich is regularly ranked as one of the world's most liveable cities.
 Image: iStockphoto/Björn Kindler

Now that Munich is on a path to freeing itself from proprietary ties, Hofmann says he sees no compelling reason for the authority to ever go back.

"We saw from the start that if you're only relying on one contributor to supply your operating system, your office system and your infrastructure, you're stuck with it. You have to do what your contributor tells you to. If they say 'There's no longer support for your office version', you have to buy and implement a new one. You're no longer able to make those kinds of decisions by yourself."

He is hopeful that Munich will show other large organisations that it is possible to make the jump to free software and, while it is a difficult and time-consuming process, making it happen doesn't mean shutting down your IT.

"It's the best thing you can do. I've been asked 'How come you say you're up and running when Microsoft says you're already dead'," he said.

Hofmann's response: "It is possible to do an open source migration and still have the citizens not left alone. We're far from being dead."

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

331 comments
admin80
admin80

But nice story indeed... anyone an idea how to crack/break the *.docx *.xlsx format-vendor-lock? ;)

admin80
admin80

problem on site: please tell your webdevelopers the comment's texts are "cutoff" like overflow hidden...


the "fyre-comment-wrapper" div needs to be 800px width or something broader... than now.


just tested in firefox... same problem.

slack1
slack1

Trust the Germans to have the organisational capability and the tenacity to finally shake off the shackles of M$! 

Well done Munich! If it wasn't for the different language (and the cold weather) I would move to Germany myself. :)

Instead I'm stuck in sunny Sydney, where the thought of bucking the trend (and actually planning ahead for more than 12-24 months at a time) is considered incongruous... :(

To the doubters, (tedz, kgapos, trilithium et al) I say that what Munich has done is to sod-break an initiative that may well see the adoption of open source software as mainstream by government organisations everywhere. If this takes off it may well see the end of the proprietary formats, arbitrary standards and other lock-ins that has plagued the IT industry since its inception.


I am old enough to have seen the rise and fall of IT giants' proprietary standards (e.g. IBM comms standards), and although I don't for one moment suggest that the road was not bumpy, I think that the value of open source and community driven standards has benefited the users overall.

Whatever criticism you may have about the Munich initiative there is no denying that taking responsibility for one's own IT environment, at the level which that city has done, can only result in long-term profit.

They will have control over the architecture, data formats and costs to a degree that no other public organisation that I know of has achieved. That alone, in the long run, will benefit them not only financially but in terms of security, accountability and forward planning.

In other words they have taken back control of their own future from M$. A rare and valuable deed.

mcumbee
mcumbee

Im glad to see someone do this on this scale. I am only a user/hobbyist  but as to the free aspect this is nice but not the entire reason. I saw a comment calling opensource an imitation product, they are really 

no imitation, they do some things differently and the OS is actually easier to tweak once you understand it. Much of the software is much less limited. I don't think  imitation of Microsoft is a good idea or anyone's intent. As an end user a major linux distro will do anything that is needed/wanted. Even gaming is becoming a reality. I can experiment(play) with technology that would cost me thousands in Microsoft's world or maybe be inaccesible at any cost, so Linux is definitely a must for my hobby.

Small businesses could absolutely benefit by never starting with Microsoft systems in the first place.

hengels
hengels

When this project was discussed in Munich and Microsoft tried to put all power into avoiding a switch to Linux I ran a Pro-Linux email campaign to all political parties (to approx. 300 regional offices) in Bavaria. My arguments from that time are still the same:

- IT money is spent primarily locally and not going to overseas

- The local software development and service structure gets more support

- A better infrastructure for IT education gets supported - Linux is free (think about Raspian)

- The government is in full control of all security aspects (no back-doors)

- The IT structure can be developed based on the city's requirements and not based on decisions of MS.

- Supporting open source avoids a monopoly of closed software companies

- Longer usage of hardware is not only a benefit for the finances but also for the  environment

Additionally the article made clear that the standardization of the wildly grown IT infrastructure was the major cause for the delays. Such a new infrastructure will ease everything in the future. Microsoft technologies are so popular because you can produce quickly results. But for a proper standardization Microsoft products are pure poison. There are so many concurring features that it is is difficult for IT managers to resist "abuse" (e. g. storing data by using MS Access). Less is sometimes more and here the Linux world shines. Looking back to the time when I sent out my email campaign I am now very satisfied that I have contributed a little bit to this decision and very successful project.

jmsusanka
jmsusanka

AWESOME!!

It is great to see someone in the IT industry make their own decisions and decide what is best for everyone instead of folding into pressure from one vendor. 

I hope other cities and corporations will follow.  I will certainly be showing everyone this article and spreading the word that you don't need Microsoft to run your IT shop.



kgapos
kgapos

They claim to have saved over 10 million euros, because they simply reduced the budget. How about return on investment? Any economist will agree that trimming the budget does not always guarantee money savings in the long term.

Just because they switched to imitation products that are cheaper, doesn't necessarily mean they raised value for money. Maybe they should reject their very own Mercedes cars also, I hear there are some new Chinese car manufacturers that make cars *almost* the same! Here's a picture http://gemssty.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/mercedes-c-vs-geely-merrie-300-proto.jpg
They look the same and they rarely burst into flames, killing all the passengers inside.

Every once in a while I read about a community project, a product *almost* identical to <fill a complicated piece technology here>. And the reason is simple: it is impossible to patent software. Regardless of this, there will always be a country that simply doesn't give a shit (see China).

In a consumer's perspective all this sounds great, freebies right? However, by the time the imitations are relatively stable to use, the newest version of the official product is released, packed with tons of innovative ideas, that increase productivity and reduce costs.

While everything migrates to the cloud, these guys are trying to re-invent the wheel. While everyone is using economies of scale to bring the costs down, these guys think they can do better with freebies.

And when the success story is too fake for anyone to believe, people will get fired and Munich will start all over again.

orionds
orionds

Congratulations, Munich! There are always advantages and disadvantages with choices made. I am a supporter of Linux and I have had "growing pains" using Linux on the desktop but things have improved over time and I feel it's all worth it. Time will tell for Munich but I believe it will show their choice to be the right one with the advantages growing.

I prefer not to go into details (as I have read time and again counter-arguments that have their point, depending how one views them) but the trend is clear - the growing adoption of Linux in so many areas of IT by individuals, corporations, institutions, manufacturers and governments (e.g. Munich, Russia, China, US government agencies like NASA and the military) points to the potential for a very good future for Linux.

trilithium
trilithium

You can pay up-front for software, or over time, or a combination of the two. But whichever way you do it, it costs money. The usual complaint about Microsoft software that one sees on the web, for example in comparing Android and Windows, is that others give away the OS whereas Microsoft insists on being paid for it. Without explaining the reality behind it, that is disingenuous. And the reality is that, as I said, you either pay up front, or you pay over time, or some combination of the two.

While Munich may have saved money, it sounds like they have a system frozen in time now, because they have their own custom version of Linux to support. I happen to like the ribbon concept, and for me, the ribbons in Outlook, Word, Explorer, etc, make those programs easier to use. But will there be such evolution in Libre Office? Or is it too pretty much frozen in time? I don't know enough about this but I'm sure someone else can comment.

There may have been a plateau of stability for some years now in which people do not expect much change in their main OS features and applications, but the last 1-2 years have shown that there are seismic changes under way, with Windows 8 and its rivals, and with the explosive growth in the use of tablets and touch-screens. Where does this put Munich? What about BYOD if those devices will not be part of the Linux ecosystem? I would be interested in the opinions of others, I am not trying to be negative about Munich.

total_loss
total_loss

Here is the reasoning. $Microsoft, actually Steve Ballmer called Linux a cancer. A cancer to whom? Linux is not a cancer, the rest of the world which is dominated by the true cancer ($Microsoft) needs to align its self to. It is a misconception that you need Office, but if you do, why not Use WINE and run Office xxxx on top of Linux? It may not be the best solution, but it is a solution. As a Linux System admin I am going to push the best and really only alternative to the Redmond brand.  And that is not $Microsoft. It is Linux, not SUN or IBM AIX, or anything else, it is the only true alternative to the true cancer, $Microsoft.

tedz98
tedz98

As soon as I read that Munich was considered to be a socialist government, I knew exactly what their motives were - though I must admit I am somewhat confounded by their socialist beliefs given they are the home of a very profitable automaker - BMW. I guess they are the San Francisco of Germany.


To think that they spent 10 years to complete this migration in order to achieve independence and freedom!  And not justify the conversion through cost savings, is surely a cop-out.  I have to wonder what the opportunity costs of this migration were?  All the time and energy spent to swap out Microsoft technology for Open Source yields no functional improvements in their IT portfolio.  At the end of a 10 year effort all they have to show for their investment of time and money is doing the same old word processing and spread sheets on a new OS platform.  If only they took all that money and effort and invested it in delivering new functionality to both the government sector as well as the citizens of Munich - think of the benefits could have been delivered.

This is like ripping all of the plumbing and electrical wires out of your house to replace them with new components (not sure why you would do this, but it's the best analogy I can come up with).  You notice no difference when you flip on the light switch or turn the water on at the sink, but somehow you feel better having done it.

I'm no fan of Microsoft, and their pricing structures are crazy, complex and expensive.  And they certainly did take advantage of their market power to extract maximum payments from their customers - but such is capitalism.  Is it Munich's dislike for profit and capitalism that drove them in this direction?  Or was it Munich's dislike of American's profiting from selling their software to the Munich government?  If Microsoft was SAP I bet they never would have under taken this adventure.



pmshah
pmshah

One very major aspect of windows that I missed out - The OS is not transferable to a different machine !!!! For every failed hardware one would have to go out and buy a new license. The cost difference between "movable" retail and O.E.M version is phenomenally high.

pmshah
pmshah

Even this cost of  €23 m Euros would be like one time cost. Once they have everything down pet, upgrading the software and OS would probably cost well under €10 million.

nm_gnulinux_user
nm_gnulinux_user

I've worked with computers since before the dawn of desktop computing. I worked on punchcard systems just to date myself. I've worked on Windows since v1.0., Linux since 2003, and all versions of Mac OS and later OS X. All these at the desktop and server levels. I've even worked on operating systems which are sitting in museums. I've worked in government in IT both military, municipal, and educational institutions. To say any Micros**t product is flawless is a good dose of delusion. I can understand why and how Munich chose open source and implemented a long conversion process. Having lived in Europe I also understand the cost to cost analysis the city leaders went through. They chose the harder but more effective path off of the Micros**t mary-go-round. I wish them well.

uwe.steppuhn.download@sws
uwe.steppuhn.download@sws

Nice approach to become independent, but in other areas they implemented SAP - why?

I have learned:
To understand political decisions, always ask who will profit from it.
In Munich, more and more decisions are influenced that way and "objectives" will be constructed to fit.

Kevin Loughrey
Kevin Loughrey

In 1998, I deliberately established a company, A Perfect PC, to provide computer systems support to small to medium sized businesses in the Sutherland/ St George areas of Sydney and to experiment with the use of Open Source Software in these companies.  The results proved to me beyond any doubt that Open Source Software is far more reliable and cheaper than closed source offerings.  

Our use of Open Source Software was confined to file, mail, web and telephony servers.  At first we used Suse but then moved to straight Debian Linux.  We wrote software using as our backend database Firebird SQL. The savings to businesses were significant.  Typically, a 30 PC establishment would be faced with around $5,000 per year support costs when using Open Source Software.  No licence fees, no ACLs on databases.  In contrast, one customer, who was bought out by another firm which insisted they had to use Microsoft server products, was faced with a bill greater than $100,000 in their first year of operation with the new systems.

Since the advent of Ubuntu and Microsoft being forced by court order to reveal certain aspects of their file formats, leading to a much greater level of compatibility between LibreOffice and Microsoft Office suite, my office has moved entirely to Open Source Software on the desktop.  It is far, far cheaper.

As an example, we recently changed out a desktop system for a notebook and changed one notebook for another.  To change over from a desktop to an ASUS notebook, we simply cloned the desktop's drive to a 2.5" drive and then inserted it into the notebook.  It started up immediately.  We then took the ASUS's old drive and placed it into a newly purchased HP Notebook.  It too ran immediately.  Try doing that with Windows!

We have found that those persons who are graduates  in Computing Science, having attended a reputable university, can easily comprehend Linux and are totally at home with it.  Support is not a problem unless you desire to use people who have little formal education.

rc_kemal
rc_kemal

I remember several years ago, there were many linux news and projects around. especially in Europe. I was keen to see where that lead to. Eventually,  many linux workstation got replaced by other OS. The main reason I heard was because the maintenance cost and time were too high. 

In the business, there are 2 type investments, 1 ) Capital Investment, 2) Operational Cost. From the Capital investment, there are some saving for company who uses Linux, approximately 50% saving. For example: 5 desktop, 

  1. Windows cost: $5840
  2. Linux cost: $2500

Cost break down detail

However from the operational cost perspective, the maintenance fee was just too high, and it is difficult to find good IT company to support it. 

Linux Red hat used to have good structure and support. They were pretty good in Server maintenance.

Ubuntu has user friendly interface.  

Since there are more and more business app (such as Office 365, or Salesforce) can be accessed via browser, I do think there is a great chance for Linux desktop to provide benefit to the business.

I tried to find IT support for Linux in Brisbane, Australia area, it was extremely difficult.

I am keen to know some feedback from other areas.

  1. Did you find any IT support for Linux?
  2. What are the SLA and Monthly Cost?

  

Richard Chang
ENACT Group

Cicuta2011
Cicuta2011

Let this be a lesson to all cities and countries, not only in the EU, but all over the world. I have always sustained that Microsoft was meant for the home and not for the business and specially the Enterprise Community. Also, a business with a homogeneous IT infrastructure is less prone to problems that a heterogeneous one; also, Windows OS has never been stable.

The best of the Munich decision is independence from Microsoft which practically is a monopoly. Open source is the way to go now that Linux has matured and is also a UNIX type OS which is excellent for an intelligent terminal instead of a Microsoft OS as well as a server. The best is to have a UNIX based infrastructure across the board in the IT industry and let people in the home deal with Microsoft problems, specially virus prone and malware.

zaris100
zaris100

Sad to see howso many is ready to give the control of the worldto one corporation.

zaris100
zaris100

Interesting to see how so many thinks it is OK that one company rules the whole world.

JadeBlade
JadeBlade

Free open source software.........I thought people say there's no free lunch.  Ironic isn't it?

Captain Nicholas
Captain Nicholas

Just a thought.  

There really hasn't been, throughout this whole discussion especially from  Munich, anything substantial about how hardware upgrades they (Munich) had to make while making major changes to an OS, costs or otherwise.  

Just think of history here, remember IBM and what occurred and how this change affected the whole world.  It wasn't in Munich then, it was in America, for the most part.  So if those with legitimate comments would leave country insults out of our discussions, it would help us get a better understanding of the facts.

DAS01
DAS01

So many people did not address that the municipality had to sort out their IT mess, too.  I wonder how much less (or more) it would have cost if they had done it only with MS, but we shall never know.

Also, I noted that some people here said that if there were no Linux equivalent of a piece of software then that bit would have to run on Windows.  Is that not defeating of the object of the exercise of rationalisation?


I am sure that the work to rationalise their IT was necessary but I hope that Munich does not come to regret the decision to move away from well-known MS apps.

pcmenten
pcmenten

I have read through the many comments and I have not yet seen anybody mention the lost productivity caused by bad Microsoft programs. This has to be a huge hidden cost of being trapped into the MS ecosystem. I have wasted many countless hours dealing with; slow starting/running MS software, mysterious bugs, MS software that is incompatible with MS software, and the like. Even after 25 years of dealing with this sort of problem, I am still amazed that MS continues to get away with being able to sell such poor quality software. Because they have a monopoly, there is no accountability, so the quality continues to suffer.

I also like the thought that the combination of cloud-based solutions, combined with browser-based interfaces, will alter the way we work and free us from the MS monolith.

RaviAmara
RaviAmara

Most of the people are talking about the Financial gain, which is of course, huge. But more important for Germany and Bayern is, security advantage. The US Govt. spy scandals, with Anglea Merkel's phone being hacked in to among others, have shaken up the German Authorities. Govt. had requested all the govt departments a list of security measures, including disabling of TPM chip that gives the Hardware and OS manufacturers backdoor access. About 10 of the largest IT providers including Microsoft are legally bound to give backdoor access to their systems for US spy agency and the "5 Eyes of US program".
Getting rid of the 10 providers who are under this legal obligation by moving to opensource and moving out of any US cloud services in to Central European Clouds and isolating the few network segments that are using the Microsoft or Apple OS's are the only way to secure the networks

Fred Fredrickson
Fred Fredrickson

@kgapos

A wonderfully incoherent post with not a shred of evidence to back up the assertions. Bravo.

spykor
spykor

Following your line of thought. Why don't you go back to being a feudal worker? You had guaranteed food and shelter, so you did not have to worry about basic necessities. Oh, yes, I know! There is a thing called FREEDOM and the right to decide for yourself when to pay for a new PC or when to upgrade your software or not being bombarded everyday with new virus that force you to PAY good money to "Antinirus" companies for the protection that your "precious" M$ OS denies you.

And lots of other things that the closed OS environments force you to swallow.

I have been using various types of Linux for more than 12 years now and for the past at least 5 years, I never had the need to use M$ Windows unless I was forced by some stupid OEM company that builds stuff "only for Windows", because they are more leeches than enterpreneurs.

oldman60
oldman60

@tedz98 The French Gendarmerie will finish to migrate 72000 Windows XP to Linux in 2014. It  will take them also 10 years but they claimed 40% cost saving.


DAS01
DAS01

@tedz98I am moved to comment that your post is a bit of a diatribe, partly deriving from ignorance.

 " considered to be a socialist government".  You obviously have no idea (and maybe the original writer also not) that all this means is that the municipality is dominated by the SPD, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which is mildly left of centre, as opposed to the rest of a (very conservative) Bavaria, which is run by right of centre groupings.

FYI urban areas all over Europe have tended to be more 'social democratic' and liberal, and less conservative ('reactionary'?) than rural areas for centuries.

orionds
orionds

@pmshah I would like to add something in support of your post. I have found that I can install a Linux desktop on one machine, make a backup image and restore it to another machine with different hardware and have it up and working at the get-go.

It may not work with every distribution (e.g. Xubuntu). I use Lubuntu. I install it, do the upgrades, customize the apps, change the desktop to Gnome fallback (or flashback, as they call it now, preferably with no effects), add compositing (3D effects because I want to use Docky) by installing XCompMgr and get it to run at startup. This way, I keep the bootup to using less than 250Mb of ram and it runs quickly. Then, I make the backup image.

I can install the backup image to any partition (of any location - sda1, sdb7, etc. - of any size as long as it is bigger than the image size restore, update the grub boot using Grub Customizer, change the host, hostname, and if needed, update the UUID of the swap partition in /etc/fstab (as it may be different from the original backup image machine). Then, again if needed, change / add users and access rights for the machine. This sounds like a lot, but it's much, much faster than doing a full install of each machine of different hardware.

This can be done with PCs, notebooks and netbooks, with sound, network and wii-fi hardware working upon reboot. In one or two cases, some wi-fi hardware may pose some problems but these were all solved.

I am using this one-install-backup-restore on a regular basis with over a dozen machines with up to 8 different hardware configurations using the Lubuntu distro which is light and configured to work with old and new hardware. It is working on single-core, double-core and quad-core hardware from 1Mb to 4Mb of ram.

I don't know what Munich is doing. They must have many more machines with different hardware. They should have their own LiMux installation iso image with all the needed software and drivers included in the first install. Again, this the beauty of the freedom of configuring any part of the process to the way you like it.

tedz98
tedz98

@pmshah With a customer such as Munich with 14,000 workstations and a motivated Microsoft, the city had significant negotiation powers.  They could have negotiated a deal with MSFT that would eliminate this issue. Again Im not a big fan of MSFT, but when you are talking about migrating 14,000 PC's you really need to think twice if not three times, as to what makes the most sense.  You may like the idea of achieving freedom but it can come at a very high real and opportunity cost.

bedeA
bedeA

@uwe.steppuhn.download@sws 
Uwe, we have to compare apples with apples....
Here, we are talking about operating system, their cost vs. benefits, and most of all also info security. Whether it is Windows or Linux, all it does is provide a platform for your Software to run. So, you can't start comparing OS's cost/benefit against SAP which is a ERP software. 
Yes, you are right, other than the Enterprise cost/benefit factor, also political factors, such as who benefits, comes in to the equation. That is exactly why, for any country outside of US, it is an advantage not to get enslaved to a System that only supports US. That is why, you would see, in many such discussion forums, including here, professional IT people support the move, and the few people who write short 2 -3 sentence posts ciritisizing and being sceptic about the move, shows that they don't have any technical knowledge to evaluate the matter, but have nationalistic feelings of seeing their OWN interests are at stake. 
For any non-US Govt or enterprise, it is worth investing in Open source OS's that are good, stable and most of all secure, and supports Open source community than a supporting another countriies main economic contributors. In the same note, SAP is German, and they would be interested in supporting their own product, which is fair enough. This doesn't mean, that any other country that follows the Munich's path, should also switch to a Linux/SAP platform. There are many more choices, mainly depending on the size of the enterprise,

bedeA
bedeA

@rc_kemal 

Here, we have mostly talked about somewhat larger enterprises, assuming that the company has at least one IT support person. Most of the qualified IT support people, when you hire, will know how to support Linux systems.Hiring a Linux experienced IT support staff is not any expensiver than support staff with only windows experience, as nearly all Universities, Technical colleges, Polytechs, that teach IT, has Linux strongly in their curriculum.  In such an organisation, not only the Capital Investment, but also Operational costs are drastically reduced, as Linux systems are much more stable. The Capital Investment is much more cheaper than what you have shown, not only because of the initial purchase price, but also due to the Lifecyle. Microsoft products need constant upgrades, and OS upgrades, makes Hardware obsolete, and need investment in hardware in shorter cycles. With LInux systems, they can run on much older hardware with much less resources, hence a company can prolong the Hardware life cycle, which contributes to even better than the reduced initial purchase price. 
But as you say, if it is a real small business, that doesn't have any IT support staff in-house, then it can be different from region to region and country to country. 
But at Enterprise level, Linux is the way to go, and especially at Govt. Level, where IT security is more important than anything else, with the expanding "Spy activity" among larger "power-players" like China and US.

DAS01
DAS01

@rc_kemal The costs website is of limited use as all items are undated.  This becomes glaringly obvious in the Browser Wars section, where Chrome does not even get a mention.


And, although the relative numbers are more meaningful than the absolute ones, it is still puzzling why the currency is not defined.  There are at least four major 'dollar' currencies I van think of in seconds..

RobinHahn
RobinHahn

@JadeBlade Nothing ironic about additive-free: like back-doors, vendor lock-in, etc. Munich has full control over their software and systems. They are truly *free*!

Cicuta2011
Cicuta2011

@JadeBlade It is not that there is no such thing as free lunch ... It is being smart! My congrats to Munich!

bedeA
bedeA

@Captain Nicholas 
If you read the article carefully, you would have realized that, it is the opposite of what you suggest. The article says, that the old pc's would have needed an huge upgrade too, if they had to do an Windows OS update, to support the new OS. Others have not discussed the hardware aspect much, BECAUSE, we all are aware, that though new Windows OS's wouldn't run on that hardware, Linux would still run very well on those machines. So, Munich not only saved on OS upgrade, but saved on Hardware upgrade too. When Microsoft releases new OS's, it is not because there had been a huge leap in technology from one OS release to the other. As many here have pointed out, they don't want to sell a Software and then sit on it, for the next 10 years to earn money again from a new release, that is why they keep on releasing newer versions so frequently. Where as OpenSource is a continuous process of improvement, where you don't have to pay for new software every few years and hardware too. 

anda_skoa
anda_skoa

@DAS01 According to the article and other information regarding the project, those applications that could not be moved off Windows (allegedly only a few), are now being served through terminal servers.

While this is obviously not as ideal as no depending on Microsoft in any part of the IT infrastructure, it keeps the dependence to a managable scope.

I assume that all application vendors have been contacted and asked for Linux version of their respective softwares. I imagine that quite some of those companies did exactly that rather then lose a customer as big as Munich

pcmenten
pcmenten

@DAS01  From what I have seen and experienced, 'sorting out their IT mess' meant ridding themselves of the Windows environment. They aren't stupid, they have 22 departments with 22 different needs. Trying to cram the divergent needs of 22 departments into a one-size-fits-all solution like Windows adds to the complexity. Unix/Linux has more degrees of freedom and less tightly interlocked applications. The 'glue' (scripting environment) that holds Unix/Linux together is more flexible, more stable, more mature, etc.

The Windows environment is a continually shifting, continually deteriorating space. Microsoft stops supporting stable versions of their OS because it's good for their business, not because it's good for the customer. XP SP2 is solid. SP3 saw a deterioration of that stable OS, justified as 'security updates'. Anybody familiar with the history of Microsoft will recognize the ploy. Remember DOS 3.0/3.0/3.2/... and DOS 6.0/...?

bedeA
bedeA

@DAS01 
What IT mess you  are specifically talking about?? Did you have any information about a specific, that we didn't know about?
The only mess we have seen is, having a fragmented IT management strategy, which has now been centralized and better managed centrally, using an OS that is better suited for this type of large networks, most of all with proper security, that is not as vulnerable to the spying agencies like Microsoft systems. 

When someone says for a specific software that would run on Windows, it doesn't defeat the purpose, as you have imagined. Out of the thousands of staff who are working on this network, there can be a specific business unit, that might be using a windows only specialized software, say for instance, the GIS dept. or a specific CAD software fro example. That would be only a few people, and if you really can't do away with it, a few PC's will run in an isolated part of the network, or it will run in a virtual environment.

So, don't get fooled to think, that this is sort of a adventurous cowboy action to  see "What happens if..." thing, but a well thought out IT strategy by real experts, leading the way, so that others can follow...

mncallan
mncallan

@DAS01 I thought that was the key to the whole article, one city government and 22 departments with their own IT systems.  They probably had 22 separate agreements with MS too, and a different TAM for each one.  Organizing that could have taken 10+ years on its own and it didn't really matter what they converted to, as long as they standardized everything and created a lifecycle to follow for apps and hardware they would be much better than where they were.  Hopefully they've figured out a better strategy for evaluating, updating, and deploying though.  If they waited until MS NT support was going away completely, that's a little late in the game to start having the "hey, we need to do an OS upgrade" conversation and if they do it again with whatever they have in place now, they may do the whole nightmare process again.

tedz98
tedz98

@DAS01 @tedz98 I am fully aware that the OVERALL  political leanings of the EU are left of center and in my opinion quite far left of center.  I was using the author's statement as being indicative that the government of Munich was in fact declaratively socialist in nature and therefore quite a bit further left of center than other left-leaning governments in Germany or other areas of Europe.  This perspective  was the basis for my opinion, not diatribe, on the motivations for making the move from Microsoft sourced software to open source software.

I typically think of Germans as being quantitative and calculating in their decision making.  I was surprised that this type of quantitative rigor was not the primary driver, nor secondary, for their decision to move to open source.  While there may be a nice "feel good" dimension to choosing to migrate to open source, a quantitaive cost-benefit analytsis would have a hard time justifying such a change, especially for an environment that is composed of 14,000 workstations.  Additionally a 10+ year migration would never be tolerated in the U.S. - even in the public sector.  The length of time required to change over systems is a strong indicator of the complexity and high cost associated with such a significant change - which tends to support my position that a migration to open source was probably not the best decision taking into consideration all of the costs and benefits.

You seem to have gotten hung up on my opinion of the political environment in Munich.  I was simply trying to highlight how political ideology, in my opinion, appears to have gotten in the way of making a sound business decision that is justified quantitatively and not just on feeling good about running open source software.  If they were a completely new installation I would certainly encourage them to look at using Open Source software. However given their legacy environment and 14,000 workstations,  moving to Open Source was not the right choice.  When political ideology wins out over logic and quantitative analysis, you are committing a disservice to the people who pay the bills for the migration - in this case the citizens of Munich.



DAS01
DAS01

@anda_skoa @DAS01 Thanks for the replies.  In threads like these what I find most interesting is the posts from people who have a real insight into the problems of daily use, i.e. developers, IT support staff et al.  Even there I see differences of opinion, i.e. it is not all one way pro-Linux or Microsoft.

I guess it is a case of 'horses for courses'.

DAS01
DAS01

@mncallan @DAS01 Yes, the article addressed the 'IT mess' question, but not the majority of the  commenters.

Furthermore, in the discussion about forced upgrades, malware vulnerabilities etc, nobody discusses the complex issues of market prominence, the need to move forward, technology changes (not everything can be backwards-compatible forever) etc.

Has anyone seen comments by techies associated with the project?

I am sure the Munich municipality had its reasons, both rational and irrational, to do what it did, but I doubt they are a template for anybody else.

oldman60
oldman60

@tedz98 @DAS01 The French Gendarmerie will finish to migarte 72000  Winodows XP to Linux  in 2014 . I will take them also 10 years but they claimed 40% saving. 

spykor
spykor

@tedz98 "a 10+ year migration would never be tolerated in the U.S. - even in the public sector". Really! Then why the transition to metric system -the system used almost by the entire planet- has taken more than 50 years? And it is not completed yet! I think that you simply take -I don't know your motives- the stand of every scared and intimidated -by Micro$oft- user who thinks that if you move away from the "all mighty and saving" M$ paradise you'll be damned to hell. Well, there is no difference between your kind and the people in pre-scientific revolution Europe. Those people -like you- thought that they would go to hell if they doubted that Earth was the center of the Universe. Thank God, Galileo came around.

ironimage
ironimage

@tedz98 @DAS01  

re: Political motivations - L/R/C alignment on a political spectrum is entirely relative - given that the center has been systematically moved ever rightward over the last 40 years, your stated conception of 'far left' still lands a place like Munich very close to the historical 'center.' 

re: German nature - most rational societies are 'quantitative and calculating' insofar as society informs and is affected by value ideologies. To say that the 'German mindset' has some particular aspect of being quantitative, calculating, dispassionate, etc., is to make a broad range of assumptions based on generalization.

re: 'feel good' migration and perspective - ideology is just as inherent to economic structures as to the political. Humans need resources, and the methods and value hierarchies involved with resource acquisition and distribution form the basis of any ideology. Note, independence is a resource - appending a currency value to this resource doesn't logically fit most quantitative models, so quantitative models are thereby ineffective in expressing the systemic value of non-material resources. Referring to the prioritization of this value as 'feel good' decision making is dismissive, and reveals more information about your personal value system than that of the municipality of Munich.

re: the migration itself - a slow migration allowed the city to provide a smooth transition and develop the internal resources to maintain their systems in a fashion absent fatal reliances. Just because one society values short-turnarounds and devalues non-fatal reliances doesn't mean that the converse could be any less useful for a different group of people. The price tag was lower and the return higher. This of course doesn't speak to the added value of FLOSS deployment.

bedeA
bedeA

@DAS01 @anda_skoa 
My finding is a bit different, I see that all the posts that I read here( to be fair, I repeat, "what I have read here:, which in fact is most...) all who endorsed the move, were people who have solid knowledge and experience, and therefore know what they are talking about. And the one's that ridicules the move to Linux, NONE, had any sound technical explanation nor any understanding on the issue. All the technical people will agree, when we read a post, even if it is only a line or two , we do read between the lines, what type of a technical background the writer has, though most "wanna-be" 's don't realize that...