Software

Ten questions Munich must answer about Windows before turning its back on Linux

Munich Green Party is demanding the city's administration clarifies the cost and the scale of the work needed to carry out another migration on this scale.

Image: Björn Kindler

Last month, open-source champion Munich tentatively decided to drop Linux for Windows. But now opponents are highlighting the many unanswered questions about the cost and feasibility of the move.

The city authority is drawing up a strategy for introducing a new Windows 10 client, which could become the only desktop OS used across the council from 2021.

Once the strategy is complete, the full council will vote on whether Windows should replace LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu OS that is used by more than 15,000 staff across the authority. If the move is approved, it will require writing off millions of euros and years of work spent moving from Windows to the Linux-based OS and other open-source software.

The original migration from Windows to LiMux, and the associated restructuring, took the council some nine years. Faced with the prospect of returning to Windows, Munich Green Party is demanding the city's administration clarifies the cost and the scale of the work needed to carry out another migration on this scale, which would take place alongside a fresh restructuring of the city's IT.

In a letter to Munich mayor Dieter Reiter, the Green Party says: "Ahead of any final decision, a number of questions remain unanswered in the city council's proposals.

"It's only with comprehensive information on the possible outcomes of the proposal that the city council can make a responsible decision."

Don't miss: Munich: The journey from Windows to Linux and back again (free PDF)

These questions extend to what will happen to LibreOffice and the wide range of other open-source software used at Munich. The new Windows client will be bundled with "commonly-used, standard products" for office software, web browsing and e-mail, suggesting that LibreOffice and other open-source software could also be replaced, with some SPD politicians already talking about a return to Microsoft Office.

Here are the 10 questions the Greens say Munich's administration must answer before any decision is taken to move back to Windows.

  1. How much additional computer hardware would need to be purchased following a change from Linux to Windows?
  2. What would be the overall licensing cost for Windows and Microsoft Office?
  3. What would be the likely cost of consultants' fees to aid with the transition to Windows?
  4. How do those costs compare to continuing to use open-source products?
  5. How much work would be needed to switch the macros and forms currently running in LibreOffice to MS Office? How many macros/forms are there? Can this transition be handled by internal staff?
  6. Will the migration from Linux to Windows be handled by internal or external staff? Has the city got enough Windows staff, and if not, can the additional staff be found? If the migration is not done by internal staff, how many external staff will be necessary, how much will they cost and to what extent is the additional expense of hiring external staff compatible with the city's goals?
  7. What will happen to staff with expertise in LiMux and other open-source applications following the migration?
  8. What internal resources will be required to migrate from Linux to Windows? How will the migration impact other projects scheduled to be carried out during the period? Will other urgent projects need to be rescheduled?
  9. How realistic is the proposed timetable for switching back to Microsoft products?
  10. In terms of contract tendering rules, how can it be legal to have already named Windows and Microsoft in the proposal to replace LiMux?

Under the terms of the proposal backed by Munich's full council, the adminstration is already under an obligation to provide certain information ahead of a final vote on a return to Windows. This information includes which software will be dumped, how much investment in technology must be written off and how much the move to Windows will cost.

Past estimates have put the cost of Munich returning to Windows at more than €17m.

This 2014 figure, produced by mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter, estimated it would cost €3.15m to buy the new PC hardware needed to run Windows and that €14m of work to support LiMux and open-source software would have to be written off. These costs were for a return to Windows 7, and are likely to have increased further due to subsequent investment in open-source related infrastructure.

While some staff at the city authority have complained about slow computers and problems with crashes and errors, the head of the Munich's central IT says these complaints will be not be solved by returning to Windows.

The final decision on whether Munich will move from LiMux to Windows is expected to be made by the council in autumn this year.

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About Nick Heath

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

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