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The Man Behind Munich's Migration of 15,000 PCs From Windows To Linux 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the full-conversion-mod dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's one of the biggest migrations in the history of Linux, and it made Steve Ballmer very angry: Munich, in southwest Germany, has completed its transition of 15,000 PCs from Windows to Linux. It has saved money, fueled the local economy, and improved security. Linux Voice talked to the man behind the migration: 'One of the biggest aims of LiMux was to make the city more independent. Germany’s major center-left political party is the SPD, and its local Munich politicians backed the idea of the city council switching to Linux. They wanted to promote small and medium-sized companies in the area, giving them funding to improve the city’s IT infrastructure, instead of sending the money overseas to a large American corporation. The SPD argued that moving to Linux would foster the local IT market, as the city would pay localcompanies to do the work.' (Linux Voice is making the PDF article free [CC-BY-SA] so that everyone can send it to their local councilors and encourage them to investigate Linux)."
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The Man Behind Munich's Migration of 15,000 PCs From Windows To Linux

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  • by bigpat (158134) on Friday May 09, 2014 @09:54AM (#46958769)
    At this point I am surprised that any government would trust a compiled OS that they can't effectively scan for any ease dropping code, intentional back doors or just vulnerabilities. Sure they can monitor the network to see if it is doing something obvious, but with a compiled OS it could be wide open to be compromised with either a back door or some code to send data off someplace and you would likely never know it. At least with Linux you can maintain your own verified version based on the source code. Of course even with wide open source code you get security issues... like openssl. But without the source code there could be a thousand of those types of vulnerabilities and only insiders at Microsoft could know about them. Maybe for most people it is a non-issue, but for governments and large corporations that level of pants around the ankles situation can have very big implications to national security and the economy.
    • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:13AM (#46958941)
      Large organisations and governments typically do have access to the source code, under heavily restrictive NDAs.

      You don't get to put Windows on a warship without the DoD being able to see what it does.
      • by bigpat (158134) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:35AM (#46959151)
        And at this point you have to ask whether the NSA took a look at the code for the Pentagon and found some holes and diligently reported them back to Microsoft to get them fixed... or did they certify the code figuring it was better to know about the vulnerabilities and be able to exploit them than to try and fix them? I think the track record here is that relying on the NSA to certify windows at least in some way has been an exercise in balancing an inherent conflict of interest. And in terms of institutional self interest it seems that the NSA is going to be more on the hook for what they can find out through surveillance than what kind of compromises of US computers there are on their watch. That combined with monthly patches creates a moving target that is probably well beyond the capabilities of even hundreds of dedicated people to adequately keep up with. In that environment finding a few holes out of perhaps many and exploiting them, at least for some period of time before reporting them, is clearly in the NSA's institutional best interest even if that means leaving the DOD and Industry more vulnerable. Even the latest directive from the Obama administration left that door wide open... saying that the NSA only had to report security vulnerabilities if they couldn't be used in the interest of national security... so basically publicly confirming the NSA policy of finding vulnerabilities and not reporting them because they can use them for their own surveillance activities.
      • by PPH (736903)

        "have access to" or "can independantly build new systeml from source"?

        I wouldn't trust Microsoft to provide the complete or even correct source, NDA or not.

      • You don't get to put Windows on a warship without the DoD being able to see what it does.

        Actually, you don't get to put Windows on a warship, period.

        They're all running Linux/Unix/Custom OS

    • At least with Linux you can maintain your own verified version based on the source code.

      At the cost of maintaining your own IT department or an ongoing contract with a third party.

      But without the source code there could be a thousand of those types of vulnerabilities and only insiders at Microsoft could know about them.

      Even with the source code, there could be vulnerabilities - that nobody knows about. Look how long Heartbleed existed before it was discovered more-or-less by happenstance.

      TANSTAAFL

      • by bigpat (158134)

        At the cost of maintaining your own IT department or an ongoing contract with a third party.

        Yes, because Windows just runs fine without IT departments? Talk to me when everyone is issued smartphones instead of computers and then you might have a point.

    • by kenh (9056)

      You imagine governments are staffed with computer professionals capable and motivated to worry about their OS being compiled by the Mfg.?

      At what level of government do you imagine would be performing code reviews and building their own OS images? Federal? State? County? Municipal? Here's a better idea, keep government worker desktops off the Internet, then it doesn't really matter how vulnerable a desktop OS is if there is an air-gap between it and the internet.

      • by bigpat (158134)

        The US government is actually staffed by tens of thousands of computer professionals. The problem is that only a select few get to analyze the Windows source code for problems.

        Here is an even better idea. Just give people iPads or android tablets and forget about desktop OSes altogether unless you are running specialized software for engineering or something specific. In which case you can probably run Linux or Macs.

  • by kenh (9056) on Friday May 09, 2014 @09:57AM (#46958799) Homepage Journal

    As the study progressed, two main options emerged as choices for the council: remaining with a purely Microsoft solution, which would involve upgrading existing Windows NT and 2000 systems to XP; and moving to a purely Linux and open source alternative. “If you lay more emphasis on the monetary side, the pure Microsoft alternative would have won, or if you lay the emphasis on the strategic side, the open source alternative was better.

    This was not a decision based on cost, it was based on functionality - being able to invest in their platform and implement exactly what they wanted was worth the additional expense, in large part because they committed to investing the money that would have gone towards US license fees into the local economy.

    • Keep reading to the end ...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:11AM (#46958923)

      You conveniently left out this part of the article:

      the calculations were based on a five-year period, so they mostly covered migration costs (staff, technical support, retraining users etc.) rather than operational costs (buying new hardware, licence fees and so forth).

      In the short term - they would have saved. However over the 10+ years since initial migration, they've saved and estimated 10 million Euros:

      Today, over a decade down the line, has LiMux been a good idea in terms of finances? “Yes, it has, depending on the calculation. We did a calculation and we made it publicly available on our information system for the city council. We have the exact same parameters for staying with Windows as with the migration to the Linux platform. Based on those parameters, Linux has saved us €10m.”

        Here is an english article [h-online.com] discussing that publicly released report. For the actual german report. see here [ris-muenchen.de]

      • by Manfre (631065)

        I call bullshit on their training claims. Staff that used Windows at previous jobs or at home will have a lower training needs. They also assume that staff time is free and ignore any lost productivity or errors from their new OS and applications.

        • by Entropius (188861)

          Training people to use Linux is pretty simple unless they're dense. I've known quite a lot of nontechnical people who, when presented with LXDE or similar, go "oh, okay, this is pretty easy" and proceed to do all their shit just like they did before, except the slashes go the other way.

          • by kenh (9056)

            Training people to use Linux is pretty simple unless they're dense.

            Dense, no, they are government workers.

          • by westyvw (653833)

            I agree. I would go furthur. If your users are even aware there is a filesystem or locations for them to save work, you have a problem. Define workflow, manage it, and make it obvious what you expect them to do and why.

        • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday May 09, 2014 @11:05AM (#46959433)

          I call bullshit on their training claims. Staff that used Windows at previous jobs or at home will have a lower training needs. They also assume that staff time is free and ignore any lost productivity or errors from their new OS and applications.

          Two Words:

          Metro Desktop

          Oh, you mean I'm supposed to learn to deal with this thing (and the Ribbon) for FREE?

        • I call bullshit on their training claims. Staff that used Windows at previous jobs or at home will have a lower training needs.

          Uh, how many training hours do you think were wasted converting users to the "ribbon" interface of Office 2007? Windows had a menu interface that worked, and admins could even customize shortcut menus on top if the workers needed specific access to common buttons, rather than digging through menus. But then there was a redesign... either you upgrade and retrain, or you deal with an inability to adequately use the new file formats when you need to communicate with others.

          And that's just one significant r

      • by kenh (9056)

        When they decided, their best information AT THE TIME was that Linux was the more expensive, yet preferable option.

        If they simply looked at cost (which they didn't) they would have gone with MS.

        Hindsight is only available after the fact, I was commenting on the inputs they had to their original decision. That they would ultimately save money was, at best, a leap of faith when they committed to Linux over MS WinXP. They saw (and have since realized) many reasons to choose Linux and did.

  • Not only that... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NapalmV (1934294) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:02AM (#46958841)
    ... but they're also taking care of the citizens screwed by the XP-end-of-life:

    http://www.itnews.com.au/News/... [itnews.com.au]

    .
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DogDude (805747)
      ... but they're also taking care of the citizens screwed by the XP-end-of-life:

      "Screwed" because MS only supported their OS for 13 years? Riiiight. Which Linux company is going to maintain a version of their OS (for free) for 13 years? Hell, which Linux company is going to maintain a version of their OS (for free) for 3 years?

      That's one of the main reasons my company won't consider Linux on the desktop.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2014 @11:13AM (#46959531)

        "Screwed" because MS only supported their OS for 13 years? Riiiight.

        They still sold brand new Windows XP licenses till Win 7 was ready in order to get a foothold into the netbook/subnotebook market and that was not full 4 years ago (Debian LTS is 5 years with free upgrades). The 13 years only counts if you had it from day one, in which case the pain of pre service pack 1 Windows XP would have screwed you at the beginning instead of the end.

      • Re:Not only that... (Score:4, Informative)

        by NapalmV (1934294) on Friday May 09, 2014 @12:41PM (#46960447)
        Screwed because MS abandoned it without offering any sensible upgrade path. Try to migrate an XP machine to Windows 8 and let us know how it went.
      • Re:Not only that... (Score:5, Informative)

        by mikechant (729173) on Friday May 09, 2014 @12:49PM (#46960509)

        "Screwed" because MS only supported their OS for 13 years?
        But also sold it on some new machines as recently as 4 years ago...

        Hell, which Linux company is going to maintain a version of their OS (for free) for 3 years?

        Err...several, for free, for considerably more than 3 years.

        Common examples:
        Ubuntu LTS: Now 5 years (increased from 3 years at V12.04)
        CentOS: Pretty much follows Red Hat. e.g CentOS V6 maintained for 9 years (2011-2020).
        Given that XP was atypical with 13 years support and Win7 gets 11 years (2009-2020), CentOS is very much in the same ballpark.

        But wait: CentOS 6 will get 9 years of *full* support (including new hardware support every 6 months and new features mainly every 2 years). Win7 only gets 6 years full support and 5 years extended (security updates only).
        I'd say that's a draw between CentOS 6 and Windows 7.

      • Re:Not only that... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PRMan (959735) on Friday May 09, 2014 @01:26PM (#46960833)
        You can easily have a 13-year-old machine running on modern Linux. This isn't possible on Windows.
  • Open Source Advocates Angry at German Gov't Decision
    May 13, 2011

    The German Foreign Office first started using Linux as a server platform in 2001 before making Linux and open source software their default desktop choice in 2005. Most observers thought the move a success. However, the government will now transition back to Windows XP, to be followed by Windows 7, also dropping OpenOffice and Thunderbird in favor of MS Office and Outlook.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article... [pcworld.com]

    • by higuita (129722) on Friday May 09, 2014 @11:09AM (#46959473) Homepage

      They where using ancient versions of thunderbird and openoffice because of internal rules that didn't allowed upgrades... by doing this, of course any interoperability problem would get worst each year. They even report that updating most software would solve most problems...

      So it was not a open source problem directly, but a internal planning and rules that caused the problems. I'm just guessing, but i suspect that the one that made the "no updates" rule didn't knew anything about computers or was already secretly preparing everything to cause problems and propose later a migration.

  • by Assmasher (456699) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:35AM (#46959149) Journal

    I think they made a smart decision that keeps their money in their borders, but the "calculations" as the main proponent of the migration used are really bent towards Linux.

    Just one example would be that he considered the cost and effort to retrain people from Windows XP to Linux and the cost and effort to train people to already using XP to Windows 7 would be equal.

    That's ridiculous.

    Again, it's a smart decision, but not because of saving money - but instead keeping the money circulating in your own economy. It may ultimately save money due to increased tax revenues but that's a tough one to figure.

  • Cost RTFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by puddingebola (2036796) on Friday May 09, 2014 @10:43AM (#46959219) Journal
    1. Initial costs of staying with Microsoft's software were lower.
    2. Customizable security was one of the pros of switching to Linux.
    3. Initial costs were projected over 5 years.
    4. 10 years have now past and the city made an assesment of cost. Conclusion was 10 mllion euros saved.
    5. HP made there own analysis and concluded that the Linux conversion had cost the city 60 million Euros more. However, when contacted for their methodology and numbers for the analysis, they declined to provide the information.
  • Nearly everyone fights change. In the absence of good reasons, MS will desperately push out slanted, factually incorrect studies with huge omissions. And it works. Local governments gratefully seize on these as the excuses to keep their old Windows systems.

    Software is a big excuse. For example, somehow, computers in the public library can't simply be connected to the Internet, no. They have to have nannyware. On further inquiry, it turns out that such software has to be approved, and approval is a lengthy process. Naturally, the approved nannyware is Windows only. (What nannyware is there for Linux?) They will wax poetic about how they don't want the town to be sued because Little Johnny saw something inappropriate on a computer at the library. Yes, Little Johnny's eyes are why they can't switch away from Windows, even in the back office in city hall.

    The most likely way to get the local politicians and bureaucrats to move on something like that is to make them more afraid of not doing it. Repeat, over and over, that Windows is much less secure. Ask them if they'd enjoy being sued because Big John had his passwords intercepted on a library computer. Or sued because hackers broke into their database and got all their information about property owners in the town. Would they enjoy being another Target? Saving money also gets their attention, but not as much as fear.

    You'd think that the military, an organization that is under constant attack, would want more security than Windows has. Maybe more than plain Linux, maybe SELinux, or OpenBSD. Or make their own, which they can afford to do. But no. The soldiers are mostly young men who grew up with PCs that had Windows installed. The officers will argue that it is also important that soldiers be able to do their jobs, and that's why they have to have Windows, because that's what they know. Train them on other OSes? Never! The officers aren't experts with computers either, and will demand contradictory and downright stupid things of any proposed replacement. They will also want to be in control, and try to keep everything secret, thus virtually guaranteeing that any project they launch will fail. Though they have the resources, their ability to make their own is poor. Another excuse in the US is the home grown argument. MS is American, Linux is not. Who knows what hacks some foreigners might have inserted in Linux, as if, unlike MS's code, they can't check the source themselves, and as if MS never outsources any software engineering work or hires foreigners.

  • ... cannot be achieved without open standards, and open standards in computing can only be guaranteed through Open Source.
  • by dave420 (699308) on Friday May 09, 2014 @11:21AM (#46959609)
    Munich is in South-East Germany. Google Maps isn't that hard to use, is it? :)
  • Geography 101 (Score:5, Informative)

    by yacc143 (975862) on Friday May 09, 2014 @11:53AM (#46959931) Homepage

    Munich is in the southeast of Germany.

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