Open Source

Mayor of city that threw out Microsoft told to end attacks on Linux

The mayor of Munich, the city that replaced Windows with Linux, is told his public attacks on the move to open source are hampering efforts to end the authority's IT staffing shortage.

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The city of Munich
Image: Björn Kindler
The mayor of a German city that swapped Windows for Linux must stop publicly criticising the way IT is run at the council or risk worsening an ongoing staffing crisis.

That was the warning in an open letter from a senior Munich city staff representative, who said the authority's IT department has about 20 percent fewer staff than it needs.

That staff shortage is hampering the German authority's ability to "drive changes" and carry out new projects, according to the chairman of the city's staff council Ursula Hofmann. Hofmann wrote to mayor Dieter Reiter asking him to scale back his public criticisms of the city's IT and its move to a Linux-based desktop OS. In 2013 the council finished migrating the bulk of its 15,000 staff from Windows and Microsft Office to Limux, a custom version of Ubuntu, and an open-source office suite.

"The discussion, criticism and doubt about [the city's] IT, which have increasingly taken place in public, run counter to stability, and are above all counter-productive," she wrote.

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Mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter has been quoted as saying he is a 'Microsoft fan'

Reiter has publicly criticised the move to Limux, having been quoted as saying open source software is 'lagging behind the proprietary IT vendor's solutions' and that he is a "Microsoft fan".

More recently he attacked the performance of the city's IT department as a whole, describing an email outage as unacceptable. An internal investigation determined the incident in December had no link to Limux and was related to the city's external email server accumulating a back log of some 20,000 messages after an email was sent with an unusually large Subject header.

Hofmann asks Reiter to give the IT staff time to adjust to new working practices.

"Please give the existing IT organisation - and above all the people working there - a chance to prove themselves under their own steam," she said.

The council needs more IT staff to work on new projects in a variety of areas, such as e-government and network security, according to a spokesman. The council undertook some 390 new IT projects in 2014, with a recent council report describing the number of projects as "continuously increasing".

"Currently the shortage in IT specialists and administration staff is still at about 20 percent. it@M [the company responsible for IT at the city] will continue to look for qualified employees," he said.

What's next for Limux?

Ahead of a review of how IT is run at Munich, council staff are to be surveyed about the problems they experience using Limux and how the open source desktop works with third party applications.

"The aim of the survey is to get a general idea of user satisfaction with IT in general and with the desktop computer in particular," said the council spokesman.

The survey is expected to be issued at some point within the next few months and that it will take another two months to compile and evaluate the results.

The findings will be used to draw up a definitive list of issues users have with IT at the council and potential ways to resolve them. It will also provide a measure of the user satisfaction to the consulting company that will carry out the review of Munich's IT. The consulting company is yet to be appointed.

Why other organisations in Munich are sticking with Windows

To help it decide how to run its IT, the Munich authority also polled larger affiliate organisations in the city about their IT estates and what had driven their choices.

Concerns about not being able to find the staff to manage a large-scale Linux desktop deployment and free software played a role in persuading large organisations to stick with Windows.

The city's municipal works department rolled out Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, citing the difficulty of finding qualified IT personnel as a factor that discouraged it from moving away from Windows.

Commenting on the findings, Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation, said the foundation is aware of the need for a larger number of people with the skills to maintain and develop Linux-based operating systems within large companies and organisations.

"Preliminary findings from our annual Linux Jobs Report, to be released in February, show nearly 88 percent of hiring managers are having a very or somewhat difficult time finding adequate Linux talent. This is why The Linux Foundation has expanded its efforts to train Linux professionals with expanded training courses, a free Intro to Linux MOOC with edX, and the new performance-based Linux certification programs."

Nevertheless, the difficulty recruiting staff is only one of the issues raised. Generally the Munich-based organisations surveyed gave the fact that Microsoft products are the "standard" as justification for sticking with them - referring to the need for compatibility with third-party software and to be able to easily swap information with partners.

About

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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