Open Source

How a Linux stronghold turned back to Windows: Key dates in Munich's LiMux project

The entire history of Munich's flagship open-source project, dating back to its inception.

For years the LiMux project was the go-to example of a successful migration to open-source software, proof that a major organization could successfully turn its back on Windows.

As part of the project, more than 15,000 PCs at the city council in the German city of Munich were migrated to a custom Linux-based OS and other open-source software, saving millions of Euros on licensing and hardware costs.

But as time wore on, reports of problems emerged, with complaints about the time it took to update and fix software. Despite indications these issues largely stemmed from disorganization within the city's IT departments, as the city's political make-up changed, including the election of a new mayor in 2014, so pressure grew to return to Windows.

The city's move back to Windows became a reality today, with the full council giving the go-ahead for Munich to replace LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu OS, with Windows 10 by 2023.

As the LiMux project enters its final days, here's the entire history of the Munich's move to open-source, dating back to its inception, together with what's in store in the years to come.

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

The timeline

2002: The seeds of the LiMux project are planted, as Munich City Council orders a study to consider the benefits of switching to a GNU/Linux OS, OpenOffice and other free software.

March 2003: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes time out of a holiday in Germany to lobby Munich's mayor in attempt to get the city to stick with Windows.

May 2003: Microsoft knocks millions of Euros off the price of Munich sticking with Windows in a bid to stop the move to Linux.

May 2003: The council votes to switch away from Windows and other proprietary software to open-source alternatives.

June 2004: The council gives the go-ahead to begin the migration from Windows NT and Office 97/2000 to a Linux-based OS, a custom-version of OpenOffice, as well as a variety of free software. The project later becomes known as LiMux, named after the custom Linux-based OS the council is rolling out.

Summer 2004: The project is temporarily put on hold while a study investigates whether it could be derailed by software patents.

September 2005: The migration to LiMux and OpenOffice, due to begin before the end of 2005, slips by one year, to provide time for the project to run a pilot phase.

September 2006: The migration of desktop PCs to LiMux begins in earnest.

Late 2010: A total of 5,000 PCs have been migrated to LiMux.

January 2013: HP publishes a Microsoft-sponsored report that claims the city could migrate 50 to 500 desktop PCs per day if it were upgrading to a Microsoft OS and office suite, compared to the eight per day it said was being achieved under the LiMux project. The report is criticized for various inaccuracies, including the cost of the LiMux migration.

August 2013: Munich announces the migration to LiMux and OpenOffice has cost some €23m.

October 2013: The project finishes within budget, with more than 14,800 staff migrated to using LiMux and more than 15,000 to OpenOffice. A minority of Windows machines are kept for line-of-business software that is incompatible with LiMux. The migration is finishing slightly later than originally envisaged, due to the project being extended to also include a reorganization of IT at the council.

End of 2013: Munich begins transition from OpenOffice to LibreOffice.

March 2014: The SPD's Dieter Reiter is elected as mayor, replacing Christian Ude, the mayor of 21 years under whose stewardship the LiMux project was realized.

July 2014: There are signs the changing political make-up of the council has shifted attitudes away from the LiMux project. The newly elected mayor Reiter publicly criticizes the move to open-source software, which he says is 'lagging behind the proprietary IT vendor's solutions'.

August 2014: The mayor asks council officials to begin gathering data on which operating systems represent the best value for money, as part of a general study into how to improve IT at the council. The move is taken as an indication the council is planning to move back to Windows, but Munich rejects this.

October 2014: Mayor Reiter reveals that replacing LiMux with Windows 7 at Munich would cost €3.15m in new hardware and would mean writing off €14m of work it had carried out to shift to LiMux. He also says that moving to LiMux had saved the council about €11m on hardware and software licensing costs.

May 2016: An interim report by consultants Accenture and arf highlights user dissatisfaction with outdated and unreliable software at Munich, but says this applies both to Linux-based machines and the Windows machines still in use, and places much of the blame on poor co-ordination between IT departments spread across the city.

November 2016: The full version of the consultants' report suggests that Windows 10 and Microsoft Office should be made available to all departments, and staff given a choice a choice about whether to use Windows or LiMux.

February 2017: In what marks a significant step back towards Windows, the council backs a proposal—put forward by the ruling SPD and CSU coalition—to investigate how long it will take and how much it will cost to build a Windows 10 desktop OS for use by the city's employees.

October 2017: The city council appears to cast further doubt on the future of the LiMux project, issuing a statement saying it would not be cost efficient to carry on running Linux side-by-side with Windows.

23 November 2017: The full council agrees to rollout Windows 10 to PCs across the council, replacing LiMux, and backs a 6,000-seat trial of Microsoft Office 2016, with a view to evaluating whether to replace LibreOffice entirely.

Expected future timeline

Early 2018: Work begins on preparing the Windows 10 client and on implementing the 6,000-seat trial of Microsoft Office 2016.

Late 2018: The council votes on whether Munich should roll Microsoft Office 2016 out across the council, replacing LibreOffice, based on the results of the 6,000-seat pilot.

2019: The final version of LiMux is released.

2020: The rollout of Windows 10 across the council begins.

Early 2021: The rollout of Microsoft Office begins (if it is approved in late 2018).

End of 2022/early 2023: The rollout of Windows 10 is complete and LiMux is retired

End of 2023: The rollout of LibreOffice is completed (if it is approved in late 2018).

munich-panorama-620px.jpg

The Munich skyline.

Image: Björn Kindler

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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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