How Munich Translated 15,000 Windows PCs to Linux

    In November 2013, the City Council of Munich completed a lengthy migration process to free software. The decision to abandon the proprietary and very expensive Windows and Microsoft Office programs was made in 2003. After training, planning and retraining of staff, the city began to systematically transfer offices from Windows NT to its own LiMux distribution. The procedure took 10 years.

    Munich is one of the first cities in Europe to completely switch to free software and save millions of euros from the city budget. As of November 2013, the total budget savings exceeded 10 million euros, and this figure will continue to grow, because free software does not require annual license fees and a paid OS upgrade.

    LiMux carries with it a completely ready-to-use desktop environment based on open source software, including free office programs OpenOffice, which work with the open format Open Document Format (ODF). This format has become the standard for office work in the city.

    Recently, Linux Voice magazine published an article ( pdf ) that revealed some of the details of Munich's transition to open source. Peter Hofmann, project manager of LiMux, spoke about them.


    Peter Hofmann in the office of LiMux, in the background a penguin, everything is as it should

    Munich is considered the technological leader of Europein the aggregate of 42 criteria for IT innovation, business activity, science and R&D. Not surprisingly, back in 2001, one of the members of the city council of Munich asked the question: is there any alternative to Microsoft software?

    To answer this question, a tender was announced to conduct a comparative study of the cost of supporting five different platforms. One of them is exclusively Microsoft software, the second is Windows and OpenOffice, the third is Linux and OpenOffice, etc.

    As a result, there are only two options left: either upgrade systems from Windows NT and 2000 to XP, or install Linux with a set of open source software. It also turned out that in the five-year perspective, staying with Windows is cheaper. But the activists from the LiMux project managed to convince authorities that Linux has an advantage in terms of information security. In addition, the local economy will benefit: the money will remain in Munich, and not go overseas. Another argument is the stimulation of the local IT market, because the order was carried out by local companies. The initiative was supported by politicians from the influential SPD party.


    Schedule of migration from Windows to Linux in 2012: from 9,000 computers at the beginning of the year to 14,000 at the end of the year

    The city council decided to switch to Linux in 2003. Shortly before the vote, Microsoft found out about this - and Steve Ballmer immediately flew to the mayor of Munich to negotiate. However, this had the opposite effect. The city administration decided: what will they be if one important person from a large corporation forces them to change their decision?

    As a result, the vote was in favor of Linux, which was a historic event for Linux and the entire free software movement.

    In 2004, preparatory work began, including a tender for the development of a desktop version of the system. Ten companies participated in the tender, and the consortium of two small firms Gonicus and Softcon, which offered Debian-based client software, became the winner.

    Thirteen people worked on the LiMux project then, not counting consultants from Gonicus. By 2006, the development of client software was over - and Linux began to be installed on the first computers. In 2008, it became clear that it was better to switch to a different distribution kit to support the new hardware, so Debian was changed to Kubuntu.



    The reason for switching to Kubuntu was also the preservation of a more familiar desktop environment (KDE) for users. The fact is that after switching to Linux, many users made claims precisely in connection with the change in the interface: they say that this button used to be green, and now it is not green, I can’t work like that. However, there were other users who were not indignant, but, on the contrary, were pleasantly surprised that the mouse works under Linux, recalls Hofmann.

    Now LiMux is being updated after Kubuntu, albeit with a delay. For example, only this year a new version of LiMux based on Kubuntu 12.04 LTS will be released.

    Although such a task was not set in the first place, the LiMux project even allowed saving money from the city budget. Over the past years, the total savings amounted to 10 million euros, according to LiMux estimates.

    Unfortunately, other cities for some reason do not follow the example of Munich. For example, a similar Wienux project began in Vienna (Austria), but the initiative was blocked in 2008. Peter Hofmann believes that the reason for the lack of support for the project from politicians is that several techies' initiatives are not enough.

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