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How Munich Abandoned Microsoft for Open Source 294

Posted by Soulskill
from the clippy-ist-verboten dept.
An anonymous reader writes "TechRepublic has the story behind Munich City Council's decision to ditch Microsoft Windows and Office in favor of open source software. The project leader talks about why the shift was primarily about freedom, in this case freeing itself from being tied into Microsoft's infrastructure and having control over the software it uses. He talks about how the council managed to keep such a large project on track, despite affecting 15,000 people and spanning nine years. He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail."
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How Munich Abandoned Microsoft for Open Source

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  • To München! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:44PM (#45465761)

    A new set of verses is needed: In München steht ein Linuxhaus [youtube.com]

  • bribery (Score:2, Interesting)

    The question is, how they managed to do this despite of Microsoft Economical Power. How they avoided bribery of the involved politicians?
    • Re:bribery (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:20PM (#45466151)
      Lol, only on Slashdot. Modded to +4 for paranoid ramblings about bribery...
    • Re:bribery (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:26PM (#45466213)

      Germany apparently isn't completely rife with corruption, unlike the United States. That's how.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The question is, how they managed to do this despite of Microsoft Economical Power. How they avoided bribery of the involved politicians?

      You're looking at a cultural decision, not a political decision. RTFA.

      "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.

      and a little further down:

      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 about Munich's open source migration at the Linux Tag conference in Berlin. 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

      Even Ballmer took time from his Winter chair-throwing training to go speak with gov officials. Knowing that the words "do not lose to Linux" were said, you can be damn sure he tried everything from price cuts to hookers and drugs*. (*hookers and drugs not available in all areas, some restrictions may apply)

    • Re:bribery (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @04:49PM (#45467093) Homepage Journal
      Seems that in Germany bribery is outlawed instead of renamed to "lobbying" as in other countries.
    • Re:bribery (Score:5, Informative)

      by bfandreas (603438) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @05:02PM (#45467209)
      Simple: The conservative party who were the only ones to vote against this were in the minority. The centre-left party, the green party and the GLBT folks voted for the Linux transition. It was a vote for long-term indipendence against short-term planning and a matter of principle.

      I had dealings with the LHM back then and I do fully believe they haven't saved a single cent on the transition. There were hordes of IBM and SuSE consultants stampeding through the halls and they hired a bunch of permanent employees for this. In fact MS made them a couple of offers which as it turned out they could refuse. They hadn't planned on saving money so special deals by MS were not that juicy.

      The frustration of the MS sales reps(there were even rumors monkey boy himself traveled to Munich) must have been immense. Munich back then was still running NT and a lot of their servers were Suns. In short it must have been the big cahuna back then.
      • Re:bribery (Score:4, Interesting)

        by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @07:18PM (#45468263)

        Simple: The conservative party who were the only ones to vote against this were in the minority. The centre-left party, the green party and the GLBT folks voted for the Linux transition. It was a vote for long-term indipendence against short-term planning and a matter of principle.

        And thats the difference between Germany and the US. In the US there are only two parties Right and Righter, so there no balancing effect.

      • Re:bribery (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bakes (87194) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:15PM (#45469077) Journal

        I had dealings with the LHM back then and I do fully believe they haven't saved a single cent on the transition

        Maybe they didn't save anything on the transition, but do they expect to save overall costs/expenses in the longer term?

    • Re:bribery (Score:4, Insightful)

      by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @12:12AM (#45469903)

      They way they can do it in future is to invoke the argument that every piece of Microsoft software from the US is HIGHLY likely to have been influenced by the NSA which is an arm of the same corporate industrial complex.

      The Snowden revelations underscore the argument that the US government is utterly corrupt, engages in economic espionage, and that the EU should put serious and sustained effort into avoiding "enemy" software.

      The statements above can no longer be considered even remotely controversial. Anyone in the EU who advocates Free and Open Software has been given the perfect advocacy tool.

      Any time anyone advocates the use of Windows for EU government or business functions, hit them hard and relentlessly with the security argument. There being zero logical support for trusting what you cannot verify, they lose.

  • Long-term costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:53PM (#45465849) Homepage

    He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail.

    Meh... maybe.

    FLOSS changes the costs. You spend more in training, but save on material. If your organization already has significant training procedures to accommodate big processes (like, say, a government would have), you'll probably come out ahead on the deal. If you have an office of 50 people who were all hired already knowing Microsoft's products, you can expect significant retraining costs that might exceed what you'll save on licensing.

    Of course, managers who are focused solely on the cost will decline any training investment, figuring that it's similar enough to older Microsoft offerings that there should be no problem. Then when the users complain that they don't know the software, they blame the software for the failure.

    • Re:Long-term costs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:56PM (#45465893) Homepage Journal
      already has significant training procedures to accommodate big processes (like, say, a government would have),

      HAHAHA! Thanks for the laugh.

      I speak from experience when I tell you you're dreaming if you think government has training procedures. We have a training group and my area (the IT side) does more to train end users than they do. We keep wondering why we're paying these people when everyone comes to us with training questions.
      • Re:Long-term costs (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:30PM (#45466271)

        That's because you live in America, rather than an advanced, industrialized country with a well-run government.

      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        Wetter you train or not is irrelevant. The cost will either go in inefficiency or in training. Training is cheaper in the long run. Been there done that on a different level but it's all the same.

        Just putting a new copier in an office is a nightmare if you don't provide a short training coupled with a reference sheet.

    • Re:Long-term costs (Score:4, Interesting)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:19PM (#45466143) Journal

      Umm, the licensing costs are perpetual in many forms. So at no point ever can training costs go above the licensing, it's just a matter of how long to recoup. In addition, the benefits from always having the most up to date version of the software adds additional things in favor of not using MS products.

      Long term licensing is never a viable solution, it's just a lot of people don't like to look at long term economic impacts.

    • Re:Long-term costs (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:41PM (#45466415)
      One of the costs that MS always puts into their calculation is the cost of retraining for open source but puts $0 into retraining costs for Windows and Office migrations even though newer versions do require some retraining. As was noted in the report, there was actually less retraining for OpenOffice as it was closer to MS Office 2000 GUI than the newer ribbonized versions of Office that they would have deployed. Don't get me started on much Win 8 retraining will cost.
      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @07:42PM (#45468439) Homepage Journal

        Don't get me started on much Win 8 retraining will cost.

        I can't imagine. Does the interface work by doing Tai-Chi moves?

        How many times do I have to tell you, it's "flower growing through snow" to open a file; you had your left hand the wrong way up - that's "badger with two dicks fucking a pigeon".

        Huh? Oh, it deletes your entire HD and kills your cat.

    • Re:Long-term costs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @04:04PM (#45466657)

      FLOSS changes the costs. You spend more in training, but save on material. If your organization already has significant training procedures to accommodate big processes (like, say, a government would have), you'll probably come out ahead on the deal. If you have an office of 50 people who were all hired already knowing Microsoft's products, you can expect significant retraining costs that might exceed what you'll save on licensing.

      From what I've seen, small businesses won't have training infrastructure in place. Software needs to be able to be configured and used by people with little or inadequate training on the software or related technology. Large businesses do have dedicated training, but this is industry-specific. For example, insurance companies will have extensive training on policies and procedures so adding software/IT training is straight-forward. This is because the business lends itself to having a lot of people doing the same job, at the same location. But it won't work as well for, say, a retail chain. That's because while they have a lot of people doing the same job, there's only a few at each location.

      What I've found to be by far the biggest cost in IT is support though, not training. I worked a contract out of a hospital that was switching over to a new electronic records system. Despite each employee receiving close to 60 hours of training each, on-site resources at each hospital given an additional 40 hours of training on top of that for more in-depth training, the whole thing detonated on the launch pad. The reason for the failure was that, although plenty of training had been given on the user interface and what-not, hospitals are highly specialized in how they process things; every department had its own unique process. And it resulted in a support nightmare that caused their entire organization's IT to seize like an engine without oil. Everybody, at every level of IT, was manning the phones for close to a month. There were no patches. There were no deployments. There was no new equipment being installed or upgraded. Everyone basically got kicked to tech support and pulled long, long hours, with queue depths that would summon images of the Krakken when viewing them.

      While this was a proprietary solution sold with the promise of higher automation, lower operating costs, and compliance with all applicable laws... when the tires met the pavement, those savings were dwarfed by the support costs, which continued to be high for the next six months post-launch. They anticipate replacing it in 7-10 years. But in those six months, all the potential savings for the rest of its expected service live, vaporized under the heat of support costs.

      This is not an atypical situation; most IT projects fail in this fashion. Open source doesn't change this. Zero cost software would still only reduce the total cost of ownership by perhaps 7-10% in a best-case scenario. If you want to save costs in IT, worry less about the software and more about the strength of your project managers. Ultimately, your organizations ability to rapidly respond to changing user needs and have a broad IT skillset across your department's labor force, will do more to help your bottom line than any technology or software you will ever purchase.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:54PM (#45465871)

    The thing that blew me away is they had a much more advanced set of issues to deal with than a typical bureaucratic office would. The custom macros and apps isn't something that a normal company would be hung up on. That would imply to me that so long as your office can find equivalents of their core applications (whether it be accounting or graphics software), the rest shouldn't be so difficult to overcome. I've always rolled my eyes at the idea of a real-world migration for company of significant size.

    Here's an interesting tidbit from the article about how Microsoft inflated the costs of their migration to put a negative spin on the project:

    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.

    Another hidden benefit is even if your project doesn't look like it'll pan out, if you make it high-profile enough you know you can use it to leverage a better contract with Microsoft if you decide to stick with Windows.

  • "He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail."

    so just to say FU MS?

    • Re:reasons... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SargentDU (1161355) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:08PM (#45466029)
      @zlives ... No, for freedom, is how I read it. They had older machines that worked fine with Win2K but would not work well with XP or newer, so they decided to migrate to Linux for the freedom from having to do as their Computer Operating System Company demanded. This way, they could upgrade the hardware as they saw fit to upgrade.
    • Re:reasons... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by unixisc (2429386) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:09PM (#45466043)

      I agree w/ him. It's important to do the right things for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

      If one just talks money here, the costs involved in training people on FOSS alternatives would get incurred, and invariably be higher short term. The real selling point ought to be the shift of control from software vendors to consumers. In this case, since it's a government, it's somewhat easier, but the whole idea behind it is that companies - be it Microsoft, Apple or anyone else can't dictate version changes or upgrades. If it is FOSS, then the consumer becomes a de-facto owner and gets to decide when, if at all, they upgrade, what they upgrade, any training schedules thereby incurred and so on. In other words, they get to plan when to budget for changes in computing environments.

      Ultimately, the savings there are quantifiable at any point in time, but over time, the savings may not be there since one has to sometimes upgrade computing environments, whether it's on the schedule of an ISV or a consumer. That's why arguing about saving money is not a good approach. A better one is about shifting the control on any software transitions, and thereby budgeting schedules, from ISVs to consumers, thereby enabling them to plan better for it.

      • Re:reasons... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @06:31PM (#45467965)
        Bingo. I've see the same thing with companies using Quickbooks as their accounting software. When you're first starting out, you don't know much about running a business or business accounting, and Quickbooks is really tempting because it's easy to use and popular enough that all the CPAs out there are familiar with the reports it'll generate at tax time. So most small businesses start using Quickbooks.

        As they grow, some of the warts behind Quickbooks start to show up. You've started using it for your payroll, but Quickbook phases out payroll support after two years, forcing you to replace your perfectly functional version of QB with an expensive new version if you want your payroll to still work. The new version is frequently bloated enough that you also need to buy a new computer to run it. Eventually you say "Screw them, I'm just going to replace my accounting software." Then you discover that there is no way to extract your past accounting data from QB to import it into new software. It's your data, but you do not control it. QB does. They've trapped you in their ecosystem with forced bi-annual upgrades.
    • Re:reasons... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by powerpopolon (1781920) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @04:40PM (#45467011)

      "He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail."

      Note that he doesn't say migrating to FOSS doesn't save money in the end. What he says is that if your migration project gets accepted only on money saving grounds, since cost estimations are very subjective, at one point some Microsoft-friendly bureaucrat with sufficient political weight is going to come up with an Excel spreadsheet "proving" the FOSS migration doesn't save money, and then kill your project.

      so just to say FU MS?

      That's one way to put it. But then it was MS who told them "FU dear customer" first, as in "NT and Office 2000 are dead so now you must buy XP and 2003 and if you need new PCs to run them too bad for you. By the way if you want authentication to really work well you must buy AD servers to replace your current directory system". It's about you being the one who decides on your IT strategy instead of having your monopolistic software supplier telling you what to do. It looks like a reasonable reason to migrate. It was the primary reason they gave and it saved their project from being killed by bogus cost studies.

  • by toygeek (473120) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:57PM (#45465905) Homepage Journal

    Which is it? "Always" or "Likely"?

    Pairing those two words together like that is always likely a mistake.

    • Always likely.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Not really.

      If I drop a rock, it's always likely to fall to the Earth based on past observations.

      However, in the event of Really Unusual Circumstances, it could go up. We can't conclusively say things will never go up, but we've seen a large enough sample to indicate that it most likely probably will travel down. ;-)

    • by Fwipp (1473271) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:24PM (#45466193)

      Or, instead of attempting grammar pedantry, we can realize that he's saying there is no case in which this approach has a probable outcome of success. That is, all cases are likely to fail - this approach always likely to fail, no matter the situation.

      Whether you agree with this assessment is another issue.

    • by sjames (1099)

      If I am holding something and suddenly let go, it is always likely to fall. However, if an astronaut lets go, it is only sometimes likely to fall. The rest of the time, he is in zero G.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:58PM (#45465913)
    I suspect that everyone (except MS) are extremely happy to break the chains of monitoring licenses and making sure that their accounts are paid up etc.

    If I were the CFO of a company I would love to answer the call from some MSDN "certified" bunch of losers call wondering where their renewal check is and I could then tell them that they can go to hell.

    But now in these post Snowden times I would be extremely wary of any corporate data where a Microsoft OS has access to my data. How much state sponsored corporate espionage has been taking place with the cooperation of MS? None, Some, Tonnes?

    Any foreign company competing with politically connected US corporations on billion dollar deals should take a long hard look at any US based OS and think, "Might the US government be grabbing my data in their National Interest?"

    In some countries Cisco has been seeing huge drops in sales. I suspect that there is much more of this to come as it can be hard for a huge company to just throw their network gear out the window and replace it at the drop of a hat. But I also suspect that directives have been issued that all US gear is to be gone ASAP.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Curupira (1899458)
      Replying to undo a wrong moderation (tried to mod +1 insightful, accidentally clicked on -1 redundant). In a related note: WHY, Slashdot? Why do you still don't have an easy undo button for 10 lousy seconds?
    • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:38PM (#45466363)

      I knew the Snowden impact was going to be huge -- not because suddenly politicians would be activated because people "woke up" -- but because medium-sized companies will suspect either rightly or wrongly that "hey, maybe some of that spying affected us in a trade negotiation or lost technology?" The politicians care now, because the MONEY cares.

      And then you will see US corporations care about security like the auto company cares about Gas Mileage; they have no choice. Either show you are secure and you stand up to NSA or you don't get the sale.

      NOW it matters. Some fat cat might lose a chunk out of their wallet -- and there will be outrage!

      The damage won't be to US security -- but the economic damage will be in the tens of billions of dollars of lost sales.

      • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @05:24PM (#45467411)

        Good point, but I think for US corporations demonstrating good IT security is no longer sufficient. Now that it is common knowledge that the NSA can, and sometimes will, show up with a "national security letter" and demand customer data, nothing short of a change in US law will repair the lost trust.

        Because laws under which US companies can legally refuse to cooperate with US intelligence services will be needed to exclude the scenario that said intelligence services simply compel delivery of the data.

        I guess the combined industry lobby will eventually be able to get those changes, but in the meantime the economic damage will be unavoidable even for US corporations that are otherwise good at security.

  • Tens of millions spent on new screens which provide less information than the old flippy-type info on upcoming and incoming trains/subways and they're down all the fucking time. ALL the time. Usually with the typical NT error message in a grey box on a blue screen. Or there's a dump and some module names.
  • Money v. Freedom (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:21PM (#45466167) Homepage

    The project leader talks about why the shift was primarily about freedom, ... He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail.

    I think that is the core difficulty in advancing the use of F/LOSS (in the US at least). We are so culturally indoctrinated to see money, and the single-minded pursuit of it, as the measure of success that it is institutionally difficult to grasp sacrificing money in the short run for freedom; regardless of the impact on our bottom line, society, or the larger economy in the long run. The American mindset believes freedom is good in theory, but fails to see that economic success is coupled to choosing freedom -- in a broader sense than the freedom to screw your putative customers -- over short-run revenue.

    Wow, those are some seriously run-on sentences. Bite me, ... ummm, Sklansky and Malmuth? ... Case and Shiller? ... Black and Scholes? ... Ah, yes, I remember! Strunk and White! That's it. What was I talking about?

    • by melikamp (631205)

      From my anecdotal observations, it has been a long-standing effort in the free software community to de-emphasize the monetary impact and to bring to the front the political impact. While I don't consider it a mistake, I also think that there is absolutely no shame in bringing economic factors into view.

      The final test would be to do an actual TCO study, which is very hard to do, given that most programs are just too different in their free and non-free incarnations. For example, libreoffice is not a free

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:27PM (#45466233)
    The comments here are about the difficulty, the expense, the problems with user acceptance, etc. All of those imply that this sort of change is somehow and optional thing that they can choose to do...or not. In actuality, however, this change is both mandatory and inevitable...and only a matter of time. Maybe next year, maybe in 5 years, or maybe in 10 years but every single enterprise will eventually be forced to make this switch as Microsoft evolves and changes ('implodes' is the word that comes to mind) as it tries to maintain growth and earnings while trying to continue selling the same thing to the same places that already have purchased more than they will ever need.
    • Maybe next year, maybe in 5 years, or maybe in 10 years but every single enterprise will eventually be forced to make this switch as Microsoft evolves and changes ('implodes' is the word that comes to mind) as it tries to maintain growth and earnings...

      Microsoft is doing extraordinarily well in the enterprise market and talk of an implosion is nonsense.

      Commercial Licensing revenue was $9.594 billion, with a gross margin of $8.801 billion. This is growth of 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync all achieved double digits growth, and multi-year licensing revenue was up 8 percent.

      Commercial Other revenue was $1.603 billion and had a gross margin of $0.275 billion, growing by 28 percent and 161 percent, respectively. Cloud revenue was up by 103 percent, with both Office 365 seats and Azure customs both increasing by triple digits. Two thirds of Dynamics CRM customers are now opting for cloud deployments.

      Windows Division notional revenue is up 4 percent at $4.581 billion, but operating income is down 20 percent at $2.242 billion. This shows just how significant the impact of the decline of the PC market is, as well Microsoft's continued failure to capture any significant share of the tablet market.

      Server and Tools revenue was up 11 percent to $5.052 billion, and operating income was up 17 percent to $2.026 billion. In contrast to the Windows Division results, this shows the much greater resilience of the purely enterprise-focused offerings.

      Microsoft posts record Q1 revenue, increased operating income: Windows OEM revenue sharply down, but enterprise sales buoyant. [arstechnica.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And the fees to the customer have risen by 15%-50%.

        Think they will continue to tolerate such crap?

  • by kenh (9056) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @04:09PM (#45466721) Homepage Journal

    "He also warns against organizations justifying the shift to open source software on the grounds that it will save money, arguing this approach is always likely to fail."

    In my town we had a Linux "advocate" that insisted we should ditch MS and Apple for Linux to save "millions per year" in our local school district (our entire IT budget was less than $3M/year) - he felt that by proving Linux ran on 10 year old hardware in his basement, that meant we could use 10 year old hardware in the classroom...

    His argument found no traction with anyone, he felt (among other things) that there was no need for central management of 1,500 desktops & laptops, that our robust networking infrastructure could be replaced by unmanaged switches, and our seven campus WiFi network could be served with an infinite number of $40 routers flashed with WRT, etc.

  • This is one of the major rollouts of Kubuntu and it's lovely they are working with us Kubuntu developers. We have a bug squashing party in the offices of the company incharge of this at the weekend which is a great way to work together.

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