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German Foreign Ministry Migrates Desktops To OSS 147

ruphus13 writes "Here's another example of 'German Engineering' — The Foreign Ministry in Germany is migrating all of its 11,000 desktops to GNU/Linux and other open source applications. According to the article, 'this has drastically reduced maintenance costs in comparison with other ministries. "The Foreign Ministry is running desktops in many far away and some very difficult locations. Yet we spend only one thousand euro per desktop per year. That is far lower than other ministries, that on average spend more than 3000 euro per desktop per year ... Open Source desktops are far cheaper to maintain than proprietary desktop configurations," says Rolf Schuster, a diplomat at the German Embassy in Madrid and the former head of IT at the Foreign Ministry ... "The embassies in Japan and Korea have completely switched over, the embassy in Madrid has been exclusively using GNU/Linux since October last year", Schuster added, calling the migration a success.' The Guardian has additional coverage of the move."
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German Foreign Ministry Migrates Desktops To OSS

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I certainly hope more countries follow this lead.

    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @12:08PM (#25595307) Journal

      Can we get a special tag for this. I mean it's getting to where this type of headline is more abundant than anything needing the suddenoutbreakofcommonsense tag. Perhaps that is the tag that needs to be applied? Well, maybe not. We could at least start tagging them with OSSWindowsSmackDownScore or something, right?

      I don't know who is keeping score between Windows and F/OSS anymore, but it seems like newsworthy events when entire government branches, or governments, or countries smack down Windows in favor of F/OSS. Funny, I've not heard any stories that amount to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" after any of these announcements. Does anyone know of such a story where switching caused great harm or fiscal problems?

      • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @12:19PM (#25595385) Homepage

        Well, no one suffered great harm but some of the early switchers might have. IBM for example failed in being able to switch, they couldn't get their divisions coordinated well enough. Sun (which switched to Sun desktop) had problems with customers and file formats as well as secondary software (much to their embarrassment).

        The most successful switchers were companies like PitBoys and Burlington Coat Factory that were SCO / Solaris shops and weren't on Windows to bgin with. Windows lock-in seems to work.

        What is unique about Munich is that they have remained focused year after year on this goal. They missed their early deadlines but they kept funding the project and kept moving forward. They were determined to make it happen, they had problems and (and possibly still have) but they addressed them. So this isn't a "just another example" test case but rather the best example we have of a very large organization with a huge range of needs and without a high level of technical expertise in their staff that was determined to make the switch.

  • Rather outdated (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2008 @11:30AM (#25595029)
    The 'additional coverage' is from Sunday June 22 2003...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2008 @11:30AM (#25595031)

    Just now Microsoft made a statement to the press...

    "OSS is not cheaper to maintain for the following reasons"

    1. Employees will waste that extra time they get not waiting for reboots instead of using it for texting & other 'social' activities.
    2. We pay people to stick their fingers in their ears and say "La La LA MS is cheaper La La Laaaaa".
    3. Any money left will encourage your employees to steal it.
    4. Steve Balmer needs it to develop sweat-proof chairs.
    5. Windows 7 wont have any of the existing lock-in as previous versions of Windows. It'll all be new kinds of lock-in.
    6. ???
    7. Profit (for us not you)

  • by bomanbot ( 980297 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @11:41AM (#25595115)
    According to the article, the migration is already well underway. From the 11.000 desktops, 4.000 already are migrated to Open Source and about half of the embassies are on Open Source Software now. That explains where they get their maintenance cost numbers from, good to see that the cost savings seem to be real and backed by their own data instead of being estimates :)

    They also started the switch a long time ago, according to article, the infrastructure switch started in 2001 and the decision for the destop migration was done in 2004, so I think they have some solid experience with handling Open Source now, which I think is good.
    • if only 4k of 11k are migrated, doesn't that mean they will announce even greater cost savings once the migration is complete?

      The big question is - which desktop do they use? Suse, Ubuntu or Fedora? Gnome or KDE?

  • Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vskye ( 9079 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @11:42AM (#25595117)

    Well, at least Germany had the balls to stand up to Microsoft and actually go with the GNU/Linux solutions vs most other countries and corporations that just do this to get a discount from Microsoft. Here's a good quote from the article:

    The conversation between Ude and Ballmer was confidential, but anyone who knows the Microsoft CEO can guess how it went. Let us say negotiation is not his forte. Ballmer is no more designed for the art of persuasion than the Abrams tank is for delivering meals on wheels.

  • by Yogiz ( 1123127 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @11:42AM (#25595123) Journal

    Interesting. Does that mean that there are still reasonable people in the world? Even in politics?

  • GNU/Linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gQuigs ( 913879 )

    They know what GNU is, or at least use it by name. That's really the biggest story here.

    • by nawcom ( 941663 )

      They know what GNU is, or at least use it by name. That's really the biggest story here.

      You mean everyone doesn't use Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS? GNU? Whoever made this "Nuu" operating system probably copied Ubuntu.
      </newbie ubuntu user stereotype>

  • by jeevesbond ( 1066726 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @12:18PM (#25595381) Homepage

    From the Guardian article:

    Another interesting aspect of the Munich decision is that it was not driven simply by cost savings, because industry gossip has it that Ballmer offered heavy discounts on Microsoft software to stave off the threat. This was also the case in the Ministry decision to plump for open source. According to a BBC report, Interior Minister Otto Schily said the move was motivated by a desire to improve security in the nation's computer networks as well as to save public money. 'We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture,' he said, 'and we are lowering dependence on a single supplier. And so we are a leader in creating more diversity in the computer field.'

    (emphasis mine)

    And this is why, ladies and gentlemen, we won't be seeing this in many countries outside Germany. They have a politician who knows what he's talking about, and doesn't pander to the whims of industrial lobbyists.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > They have a politician who knows what he's
      > talking about, and doesn't pander to the whims
      > of industrial lobbyists.

      Ehm, let's just say some are less clueless. It might seem from 'the outside' that Germany politicians are not that driven by lobbyists but in fact they are. It's just that the German government cares very little about an American Cooperation.

      In fact German politics are heavily influenced by German cooperations, for example in the energy or pharmaceutic politics.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well Otto Schily is not the Interior Minister anymore, since 3 years actully.
      And now he is on the board of a biometric security company. As the Minister he pushed for biometric details in passports. That should cover the lobbying part.

      The open source thing is more liky to be a case of what we call in German: A blind chicken sometimes finds a grain, too.

    • In fact Schily is not what I consider to be a good politician. He has won the Big Brother Award two times. But well this quote is the best I have ever heard of him. http://www.bigbrotherawards.org/ [bigbrotherawards.org]
      • by amorsen ( 7485 )

        In fact Schily is not what I consider to be a good politician. He has won the Big Brother Award two times.

        I prefer to explain his commitment to free software this way: If you work hard to become Big Brother, you get better at recognizing when others do the same to you...

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      The point with this migration, is that it proves what people have been saying...
      Short term migration costs can be higher, but long term costs are a lot lower, and that it works on a large scale. Based on this, more migrations will happen, if not in government then in the business sectors. In the current economic climate, saving money and reducing dependencies on companies that may not be there in a few years makes a lot of sense.

    • by mgblst ( 80109 )

      Why is this such a simple concept for you to understand. Most people care more about other things, for example War. Actually having their children die. Or healthcare. Or Schools. Or the police. MOST PEOPLE CARE about that stuff, not what OS the government runs on. How stupid are you that you cannot understand this. So rather than blaming this shit on politicians and lobbyists, why don't you wake the fuck up to the real world.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The biggest hurdle proved to be to convince the two hundred IT workers a(sic) the ministry. "Their issues were not technical. They just did not know anything about Linux and Open Source and we had to change their views. We took all of them on a crash course of using Linux servers and configuring Apache. There they discovered that it works."

    • Well, that figures - if you've got 200 MCSE drones hanging about looking after your systems, it's going to take a bit of work to convince them to learn new skills that don't depend on clicking here, there and everywhere.

      Still, it looks like they've got it all up and running now, and at least some of the original drones must have blossomed into real admins along the way.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @12:27PM (#25595457)
    In Europe, these have traditionally been where the most intelligent graduates went. They wrote the book on security. They are bright enough to realise that if they open a branch office in Obscuristan it is going to be easier to get a version of OO customised for the Obscuristani dialect than persuade MS to do it, and know their successors in 100 years time will still be able to read the files. And perhaps they have the smallest concern that the CIA might be able to get information via Windows backdoors.

    The real story would be if they got the Interior Ministry to convert. In Europe, that (and the Agriculture Ministry) is usually where the deadbeats end up.

    • NSA, it's the NSA that reads your emails

      CIA will just write long reports about what you wrote....

  • Why not laptops as well?
  • 2008 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Crazyswedishguy ( 1020008 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @01:18PM (#25595829)
    Das Jahr des Linux Desktop-Computer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by xaxa ( 988988 )

      Das Jahr des Linux Desktop-Computer.

      Shouldn't that be "das Jahr des Linuxdesktopkomputor"

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Shouldn't that be "das Jahr des Linuxdesktopkomputor"

        You tell me - my username isn't CrazyGermanGuy!

      • It'd be "rechner", not "komputor". The word "desktop" in the non-computer sense translates to "Schreibtisch" (lit. "writing table", same as in danish).

        I don't know which words Germans use to distinguish between desktop/laptop/workstation systems and servers/clusters/phones/*, though.

        "Jahr des Linux an die Schreibtisch Rechner" =~ Year of Linux on the desktop computer. Not sure.

        • I don't know which words Germans use to distinguish between desktop/laptop/workstation systems and servers/clusters/phones/*, though.

          That answer your question?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          If you wanted only German, and no Anglicisms, it'd be something like ``Das Jahr des Linuxschreibtischrechners'' (hyphens are optional); still, `Desktop' got quite popular and many Anglicism-hating Germans I know of use it anyway, 'cause `Schreibtisch' has a much broader denotative (and connotative) meaning. `Desktop''s pretty clear on that part.
      • Das Jahr des Linux Desktop-Computer.

        Shouldn't that be "das Jahr des Linuxdesktopkomputor"

        Or maybe, "2008, der Linuxdesktoprechnerjahr"

  • by atrocious cowpat ( 850512 ) on Saturday November 01, 2008 @02:52PM (#25596515)
    I wonder if this has anything to do with the (then, 2001, when this started) german Foreign Minister (Secretary of State) Joschka Fischer being a member of the Green Party.

    The german Green Party has a tradition of rather sane maxims regarding IT. In late 1998 Germany elected a Social Democrat / Green Party coalition and 2001 seems like a reasonable date for the implementation of descisions made shortly after 1998.

    This, of course, is pure conjecture, i'd be grateful if anyone from Germany had any background information on the reasons for the switch.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll