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Government Open Source Linux IT

Munich Open Source Switch 'Completed Successfully' 275

Posted by timothy
from the austin-should-follow-suit dept.
Qedward writes "Munich's switch to open source software has been successfully completed, with the vast majority of the public administration's users now running its own version of Linux, city officials said today. In one of the premier open source software deployments in Europe, the city migrated from Windows NT to LiMux, its own Linux distribution. LiMux incorporates a fully open source desktop infrastructure. The city also decided to use the Open Document Format (ODF) as a standard, instead of proprietary options. Ten years after the decision to switch, the LiMux project will now go into regular operation, the Munich City council said."
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Munich Open Source Switch 'Completed Successfully'

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  • good for them! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lyapunov (241045) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:46PM (#45672869)

    This is a pleasant surprise.

    Hopefully the near 12 million pound savings can be expanded upon and cause others to follow suit.

    • Other Motives (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mx+b (2078162) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:56PM (#45672997)
      While the financial savings is great, let's also not forget that it is partially about freedom -- no forced upgrades from vendors, no special expensive proprietary software to read what should be public record, etc. I am more excited about the latter -- an openly accessible government and public records is important no matter how much it costs, but it's especially nice that we can have that AND save some cash.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Kardos (1348077)

        Also no backdoors. This alone would justify switching.

        • Probably so, but let's be careful about stating that as a fact. The amount of commits per day for Linux increases all the time and so does the probability that someone manages to sneak something nasty there. All I'm saying is that we should still keep our eyes open.
        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Also no backdoors. This alone would justify switching.

          Depends on what backdoors. NSA hidden backdoors? Maybe not. Security issues? There may be plenty.

          I know that many Linux systems end up quickly outdated (practically all of mine have mile-long lists of security updates waiting), mostly because you don't really want to hose your machine during development, and you end up with odd requirements like needing Ubuntu 10.04 still installed (despite it being out of LTS support in a few months).

          So the big question

          • by nullchar (446050)

            Most large/corporate installs of Windows manage updates via server-determined policies, not by individual users.

            One would assume LiMux is managed the same way: an IT team is constantly pushing out updates to their 14,800 desktops. If they made their own distribution, they probably manage their own auto-updates.

      • Do we know that they saved money overall? I poked around the article but I couldn’t find anything.

        From what I have read in the past, conversions like this did not save money. The reduced front end costs were offset by higher backend costs. Linux admins have higher salaries then windows admins. Front end staff needs to be retrained and have to spend more time with outside vendors who are on Microsoft Office. Etc.

        I really hope that the conversion does save money and I think the open data formats

        • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sique (173459) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:16PM (#45673223) Homepage
          There is much dispute about this, and while the City of Munich claims strong savings, Microsoft published a study which claimed Linux would cost more.

          I tend to believe Munich more on this, because they can actually point to real numbers from the real world, while Microsoft's claims are based on speculation and estimates.

        • by Zak3056 (69287)

          Do we know that they saved money overall? I poked around the article but I couldn’t find anything.

          That's also my question. I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around a decade long engineering effort, plus the ongoing costs of maintaining their own distro(!!) is going to lead to a net cost savings. Best of luck to them, and I do hope they succeeded here, but I too would love to see specifics (and not marketing drivel provided by MS, Gartner, etc).

          • Re:Other Motives (Score:4, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:23PM (#45673989)

            It's no more difficult to maintain a custom distro than a custom Windows installation. In fact, many organizations have their own "Windows distro" that comes with preconfigured and preinstalled software and properties.

            I'm guessing you, and many others for that matter, think that since they have their own distro, they must be coding themselves almost everything they use. This is simply not true. Simplified version is they just select what software they want to use and install it off the official Ubuntu repositories.

        • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Interesting)

          by haruchai (17472) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:40PM (#45673525)

          The end user retraining is probably the biggest expense but that might be offset by greater productivity / fewer desktop issues - it's hard to say.
          I see Linux admin salaries at ~10% more than for Windows but perhaps they can get by with fewer.

          • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:52PM (#45673691)

            I see Linux admin salaries at ~10% more than for Windows but perhaps they can get by with fewer.

            No "perhaps" about it. I've been an admin in a lot of different mixed shops and the ratio of servers to admins is always better for *nix than for Windows, true for both servers and desktops. Gotta love ubiquitous scripting tools and absence of Patch Tuesday.

        • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Insightful)

          by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:24PM (#45674003) Journal

          Do we know that they saved money overall? I poked around the article but I couldnâ(TM)t find anything.

          You write as though this point is the end of possible cost savings. In the future, there will be no more Windows licenses, no more CALs to buy. No more Office licenses.

          More importantly, no (or perhaps fewer) vendor(s) with a lock-in that prevents effective price negotiations and, for those that do have lock-in, a very credible threat that they will be replaced if they refuse to play ball.

          • Re:Other Motives (Score:4, Insightful)

            by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:04PM (#45674409)

            Do we know that they saved money overall? I poked around the article but I couldnâ(TM)t find anything.

            You write as though this point is the end of possible cost savings. In the future, there will be no more Windows licenses, no more CALs to buy. No more Office licenses.

            More importantly, no (or perhaps fewer) vendor(s) with a lock-in that prevents effective price negotiations and, for those that do have lock-in, a very credible threat that they will be replaced if they refuse to play ball.

            Also no tying up tech staff with juggling licenses in fear of the Spanish Inquisition, er software license audits.

        • Linux admins have higher salaries then windows admins.

          But you need less of them

          March 28, 2012: In response to a request from the CSU the City reported that it has already saved about 4 million euros in licensing costs as well as reduced the number of support calls

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiMux [wikipedia.org]

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Linux admins have higher salaries then [sic] windows admins.

          You may not always get what you pay for but you usually pay for what you get. Linux admins understand computers, Windows admins understand Windows.

          Front end staff needs to be retrained and have to spend more time with outside vendors who are on Microsoft Office.

          Utter bullshit. Staff need to be retrained when they upgrade from Office '03 to Office 10, and when going from W7 to W8. Your secretary, who needs little computing power, could get by with

      • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jez9999 (618189) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:25PM (#45673343) Homepage Journal

        No tablet interface shoehorned onto your desktop because Steve Ballmer says so...

        • by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:42PM (#45674145) Journal
          And server. Don't forget Metro on the Server. [semiaccurate.com] Because... we don't know why. Just because.
        • No tablet interface shoehorned onto your desktop because Steve Ballmer says so...

          Having experienced the Gnome Desktop, I'm presuming that this was meant to be sarcastic.

      • Re:Other Motives (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:29PM (#45673407) Journal

        What about motives for us?

        To me this is a new wrinkle in the Linux discussion. We've been seeing uBuntu's "slide towards the Dark Side". A city running its own distro built at least partially from scratch (with German Engineers! Ha! Take that!) can potentially have a super clean codebase with none of the bloated and/or dangerous commercial cruft.

        To my layman's eyes, Linux has been suffering from a bit of "X distro is/once was good and is slowly dying from lack of funds or internal politics". But a City has its own different motivation - it needs to Get Stuff Done with people mostly properly trained, vs the whole End User struggle for commercial distros.

        So what if we can tap into their work and use it ourselves? Could they provide us with a distro with the full power of a city distro with (hopefully!) no hidden agendas, backed by their level of tech support they use themselves? That could be a new go-stone in the OS Wars.

        Since the Germans are probably as upset as anyone else at the NSA, isn't that sorta "pitting them in a cage match vs the NSA spy-hackers"? If you had to put a bet on the NSA attacker vs the German Defender, which way would you go?

         

      • Re:Other Motives (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:45PM (#45673611)

        This is part of the messaging that FOSS advocates get wrong. Do not, ever, try to sell businesses, governments, NGOs, etc. on FOSS based on "freedom". That sounds like hippie logic and it simply doesn't compute with those audiences.

        Instead, flip it around and say: Convert to Linux and all FOSS apps and you gain a huge amount of control over your environment. You're in charge and can do whatever you want, without having to deal with Microsoft's (or any other vendor's) latest psychosis that forces you to deal with a uselessly different UI or development model. The more examples you can give people of specific examples -- the Windows 8 flaming, toxic train wreck simply leaps to mind -- the better.

    • Hopefully the near 12 million pound savings can be expanded upon and cause others to follow suit.

      The savings will surely help fund their joining the United Kingdom...

    • by tqk (413719)

      It's an interesting metric to go by as well. Going proprietary means a large investment in cash and related tangibles, but not many consider how much time it wastes to get away from it. I know junkies who've been on methadone that long.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      Didn't this take over 10 years? I seem to recall hearing about their decision to switch sometime around the year 2000....

      • by thaylin (555395)
        Um, it is in the summery.. Are we too lazy to even read the summery now?
      • by tqk (413719)

        Didn't this take over 10 years?

        From TFS: "Ten years after the decision to switch, the LiMux project will now go into regular operation, the Munich City council said."" So, yes, it took 'em about a decade to dig themselves out of that hole. Sad, but true.

      • Re:good for them! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Loki_666 (824073) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:25PM (#45673339)

        10 years in a governmental organization is bloody fast! Not to mention they would have had a ton of apps and systems dependent on proprietary stuff that would either need migrating or testing under WINE.

        But mainly, it would be the fact that a majority of departments I can imagine would have been fighting the change tooth and nail, not to mention pressure from MS sales reps who would have been doing the rounds convincing everyone they could that a change would be the end of the world!

  • ODF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:58PM (#45673005)
    The decision to prefer ODF as the document format is my favorite part here. Office and its DOCX format is pretty much the last big thing holding people to the Microsoft monoculture. More ODF files should be put into circulation in the business world.
    • Re:ODF (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Poingggg (103097) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:34PM (#45673447) Homepage

      More ODF files should be put into circulation in the business world.

      I fullhartedly agree! When I have to send a company a file (most of the time my CV, alas :-( ), I always ask if I can send it as an .odt file. Many times I am asked what that is, and then I explain, but offer to send the file as .pdf. I do this, just to make clear that there ARE other things around than MS-Office. However, I find that, slowly, .odt files get accepted more, and companies that do accept them have a plus for me.
      Problem is that most people, even when they use Libre Office or any other non-MS suite, will by default send everyone everything in the MS-Office formats, thus establishing the status quo. Non-MS users should use Open Document Format files, especially when sending documents to regulatory organs like city councils etc.
      In Europe (where I live), governments and government organs are mandated (hope that is the right word) to be able to handle ODF's, but if they never recieve those, most of them won't even know about their existence, let alone know how to handle them.

      (For those who want to tell me I am a pretentious prick: I know. :p )

    • by jon3k (691256)
      Someone should write a worm that just changes the default Office document "Save As" filetypes to the Open Office formats. That's it. No harm, no damage. 90% of people wouldn't even notice.
    • by exomondo (1725132)

      Office and its DOCX format is pretty much the last big thing holding people to the Microsoft monoculture.

      I still really find it hard to believe that the only reason people use Microsoft products is because of DOCX, LibreOffice can open DOCX (even if it does have some minor formatting bugs every now and then) and there are addins to Office to output to ODF if you have problems with their default ODF writer or of course you could use PDF if you aren't worrying about the users editing it. There are also a lot of legal templates for LaTeX which is another good option.

      Then there's the ease of transition, non-gov/co

  • by Kardos (1348077) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:58PM (#45673007)

    10 years is a long time to switch, I can see that being an impediment to other cities following suit. Are they sharing details of the changeover experience? It would be quite valuable to have a list of the major problems that made this take a decade rather than a year.

    • by Sique (173459) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:05PM (#45673093) Homepage
      Yes, they regularly publish reports of their switch, they are giving presentations at diverse conferences, and you can get the LiMux distribution including all the changelogs.
    • I could imagine a large amount of infrastructure, and the need for custom applications to be re-written.

      I hope the massive development they did is open sourced, and makes it easier for other cities and governments to switch, and the code and effort can be reused to make it easier for other cities

    • by firewrought (36952) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:37PM (#45673477)

      10 years is a long time to switch

      Seems quick to me... where I work, I saw it take ~8 years for a modestly complex VisualBasic application to be replaced with a .NET one. These sort of transitions take place in an environment with a lot of moving parts and ongoing demands for change and many competing priorities. Heck, we're just now to the point of completing the Windows XP --> Windows 7 transition. Big organizations move slowly... sometimes for reasons that are dumb, but frequently because that's the only way to do it.

  • One step toward an open-source world. What an exciting idea! Imagine computers out there computing, with no license fees that seem to propagate.
    • by kenh (9056) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:28PM (#45674631) Homepage Journal

      And it only took Munich ten years to upgrade - at that rate Linux will bury Microsoft in just a few years...

      This is an interesting "glass is half-empty or half-full" issue:

      Linux "advocates" will focus on the "switch completed" part of the story, MS advocates will focus on the TEN YEARS and their "need" to create their own distribution.

      No CIO in any organization of any serious size will look at this ten year effort as anything other than justification for their decision to remain on MS software.

      This is declaring our dependence on gasoline is almost upon us because one fellow in town just converted his diesel VW Rabbit to run on used cooking oil.

      Linux is 20 years old and has less than half the market share of Microsoft Vista... (3.57% v. 1.56%) [netmarketshare.com]

  • help (Score:4, Funny)

    by Fluffy the Destroyer (3459643) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:16PM (#45673235) Homepage
    Is there any other alternative to let say outlook exchange servers ? Can an email server hold more than 1000 accounts ? I know I can use openoffice but the email would be a big pain
    • by LDAPMAN (930041)

      What??? There are several options for open source email servers and most of them scale really well. Exchange typically takes a lot more resources for the same number of users...not less.

    • Re:help (Score:4, Funny)

      by ledow (319597) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @02:54PM (#45673713) Homepage

      "Can an email server hold more than 1000 accounts?"

      Hahahahahahahhahahahaaha.

      Oh, you Microsoft jokers...

    • by sribe (304414)

      Is there any other alternative to let say outlook exchange servers ? Can an email server hold more than 1000 accounts?

      Are you fucking kidding? Seriously?

    • Re:help (Score:5, Informative)

      by haruchai (17472) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:11PM (#45673875)

      Start here - http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/biztools/article.php/10730_3932591_2/Top-5-Open-Source-Alternatives-to-Microsoft-Exchange.htm [smallbusin...puting.com]

      A 1000+ users isn't that many nowadays. Sogo, Zarafa, Zimbra should manage that without too much trouble. I'd check for the other groupware / calendar features that your users depend on before seriously considering a switch.

      And there's always hosted mail / hosted Exchange. I think some of these are really running Exchange on the backend but so long as they provide the features and fully support Outlook or whatever mail client you're using, I don't think it matters.

      Here's a vid from Sogo demonstrating Outlook compatibility, narrated by a very boring robotic voice - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hcBSB4Kxww#t=292 [youtube.com]

      • by kenh (9056)

        And there's always hosted mail / hosted Exchange.

        "hosted Exchange" isn't an alternative TO Microsoft, it's an alternate way to STICK WITH Microsoft...

    • by Sique (173459)
      Back in 1993, when I was playing LPmuds, we had an email system for all players open to the outside. As the LPmuds I was playing had between 10,000 to 100,000 accounts, I would say: even toy email servers had no problem with 100,000 accounts 20 years ago ;)
    • Is there any other alternative to let say outlook exchange servers ? Can an email server hold more than 1000 accounts ? I know I can use openoffice but the email would be a big pain

      Er, you DO realize that it took several years before Microsoft was able to run Hotmail on Microsoft software don't you?

      Guess what they were using before then.

  • Windows NT... are you serious?
    • by kenh (9056)

      The last users to be converted (upgraded?) to LiMux spent the last TEN YEARS on WinNT? Whoa!

  • I know this is Germany and there are no software patents but why would that stop Microsoft (or some MS funded troll) from trying?

    They simply can't let the public know that whatever it is, it can be done with F/OSS and if it can't now, a project can be launched and funded to pay for it... ONCE! Not over and over and over again, by the seat, by the user, by the processor or however a software might be licensed. It's just better. But people have grown pretty fat, dumb and lazy and are willing to just let th

    • by kenh (9056)

      Munich proved it took TEN YEARS to migrate off Microsoft to Linux, and in the process they had to roll-their-own distribution.

      This won't convince major corporate installations to cutover to Linux, it will scare them off! I mean seriously, a ten year process?

      How on earth can a properly skeptical person ever believe that letting the people who profit the most from a thing tell us what's best?

      So wait, Steve Jobs was wrong? He said Apple stuff was the best, but he also profited off it greatly...

      And what about a

      • by tibit (1762298)

        In the process of migration they've also consolidated a dozen IT departments, each one doing their own thing. They've done a lot more than simply moving a well-ran Windows shop over to Linux. They've done that but also had to create a well-ran shop in parallel with the migration.

  • by kenh (9056) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @03:38PM (#45674123) Homepage Journal

    "In one of the premier open source software deployments in Europe, the city migrated from Windows NT to LiMux, its own Linux distribution ... Ten years after the decision to switch, the LiMux project will now go into regular operation, the Munich City council said."

    It only took ten years and the development of their own distribution of Linux to migrate from WinNT to LiMux (their own Linux distro) - wow.

    I guess if Munich can do it, anyone can!

    Question - were the last few users to convert (upgrade?) to LiMux still running WinNT for the last ten years or did they upgrade from WinNT to one of Microsoft's other interim offerings before finally landing on LiMux?

    As I remember, one thing a leader of this effort pointed out was that this was not about "saving money," and if that was your primary goal you should reconsider any plans to migrate to a Linux distribution - there are many valid reason for the cutover to Linux, but cost savings alone won't justify the change.

  • by folderol (1965326) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @05:01PM (#45674949) Homepage
    Done, in spite of all the FUD and backstabbing. Nobody can now say (with any credibility) that it can't be done for a 'large' oganisation. I especially like that Munich never tried to cover up difficulties they had during the process, but instead calmly adjusted and compensated.

    Really really impressed with this project, and now Munich truly owns their data unlike any other government.

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