19 January 2004 Munich City Council has admitted that it is experiencing technical difficulties in its migration of 14,000 desktop computers from Microsoft to the open source operating system Linux.
The flagship project is being closely watched around the world, particularly by public sector organisations considering similar defections from Microsoft to Linux. Failure in Munich will set back the corporate adoption of Linux on the desktop by years.
Furthermore, no contracts have yet been signed and the council’s stance could change if the migration costs start to mount. “This is a political decision and can always be reversed,” said project manager Peter Hofmann.
The problem is that a number of smaller vendors are reluctant to re-architect their applications so that they can be accessed via a standard web browser, Hofmann told Infoconomy. In addition, some suppliers also lack skills in non-Microsoft tools and operating environments.
In May 2003, the council became the first major organisation to openly reject Microsoft when it voted to migrate its 14,000 desktop PCs to open source software. That decision was made despite intense lobbying by Microsoft, including a flying visit from CEO Steve Ballmer, and a massive cut in licensing and support fees.
However, a final decision still has not been made, nor have the contracts been signed.
A “realisation scenario” comprising an extensive list of applications suitable and unsuitable for migration to Linux, as well as a full budget for the migration, is to be presented as part of a complete migration plan to the city council this spring.
The city council will then make the final decision, said Hofmann.
Migration will commence in early 2005, if the project goes ahead. Smaller departments with the least complex IT infrastructure will be migrated first, said Hofmann. The council estimates that the entire process will take about three years.
The Munich experiment is being watched closely by a number of public sector organisations around the world.
“We have received calls from the state and local government in Korea, the Australian Ministry of Agriculture, as well as various city councils around Germany and the rest of Europe,” said Hofmann. If successful in Munich, Hofmann expects a slew of public sector organisations to follow suit.