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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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Let me guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by livingboy (444688) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:56PM (#45465887)

    For that reason I used to send my course work as pdfs. I used Libre Office or Google Docs for editing and converted final documents to pdf format.

    So MS Word couldn't change layout when document was opened by the teacher.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @02:59PM (#45465931)

    They're German, they didn't vote for Obama, and they've had a universal healthcare system for decades longer than Obama has been alive.

  • Re:Long-term costs (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @03:06PM (#45466013)

    Well, that was part of the reason for the whole thing.
    They'd have to retrain their Office 2k/2k3-on-WinXP users for Office 2k7-on-Vista anyways.

  • 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: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.

  • 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.
  • 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 blackiner (2787381) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @04:05PM (#45466665)
    You are entirely missing the point. You do not have the Windows source (sure, SOME people can get this, most cannot), and even if you did have it you wouldn't be able to build or distribute it. You are entirely at Microsoft's whim, and they are legally bound to comply with the US government. You seem to think a complex black box built by people at the governments whims, without any ability to fix the internals if something is wrong is somehow more secure than a complex transparent box that allows you to fix the internals.
  • 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.

  • 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:Let me guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @05:16PM (#45467345)

    For that reason I used to send my course work as pdfs. I used Libre Office or Google Docs for editing and converted final documents to pdf format.

    So MS Word couldn't change layout when document was opened by the teacher.

    This whole "Nothing else formats like Genuine Microsoft" thing is pure garbage.

    I have never depended on a word processor to maintain constant pixel-by-pixel formatting. That's not what they're for. The only reason that Word documents don't routinely re-arrange themselves (the way they used to) every time you transport a document to a machine with a different printer/set of fonts is because virtually all word processing today is done with a standard set of scalable fonts. Word itself, like many other GUI apps that handle formatted text delegates a lot of the raw typesetting to the video card and the selected printer driver. When most fonts were hardware fonts, that meant some serious re-arranging was commonplace.

    If you want precise placement of text, don't use a word processor, use a page layout program. And create a PDF.

    And if you want basic formatting to be preserved but pixel-precise isn't important, don't use a word processor like it's a typewriter and jam in manual spaces and carriage returns by dumb brute force, use styles. No, it won't be as immutable as PDF, but at least what re-arranging does happen won't look like crap.

  • 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.

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

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday November 19, 2013 @09:38PM (#45469229)

    I still struggle with the ribbon, and I'm a techie. It's just stunningly unintuitive to me.

  • 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.

  • Re:bribery (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slashd[ ]fi ... m ['ot.' in gap]> on Wednesday November 20, 2013 @04:53AM (#45470869) Homepage

    Having a *better* user experience is not what matters, Apple have offered a better user experience for many years and yet they are still a small niche...

    It's extremely hard to compete against an entrenched supplier, being better and cheaper isn't enough you have to fight to get noticed and this is very difficult especially when there aren't large organisations putting money behind advertising. People have to know about and give your new system a fair try before they will realise it's better, getting people to give it a try is the hardest bit.

    The phone market was very different, buyers were already used to competition between different software suppliers, and used to buying a new completely different phone when their contract expires so its very easy to get people to try your new system.

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