Munich's $44.5M 14,000-PC desktop Linux migration project: So far, so good

Munich's $44.5M 14,000-PC desktop Linux migration project: So far, so good

Summary: A story published last week by Heise Online has some interesting details that other organizations considering a move to desktop Linux might want to take a note of:The "LiMux" client is mainly based on Debian/GNU Linux 3.1, Desktop KDE, and OpenOffice 2.

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TOPICS: Linux
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A story published last week by Heise Online has some interesting details that other organizations considering a move to desktop Linux might want to take a note of:

  • The "LiMux" client is mainly based on Debian/GNU Linux 3.1, Desktop KDE, and OpenOffice 2.
  • Officials anticipate it will take approximately 2 years to complete the migration of its 14,000 PCs.
  • Munich's mayor is reporting that the switch from Windows to LiMux was "easy" (but perhaps we should expect any politician to say something like that of his or her own initiatives).
  • One user (apparently an assistant to the Lord Mayor) reported that "she missed some of the macros she used in Microsoft Office's Excel to schedule her boss's appointments. But she does like the 'nice additional functions' in the new system, such as yellow post-its. Overall, she did not think that the migration had made things any better or worse."
  • The project appears to be coming in on-budget (US$44.5 million). "The largest share of that budget -- 38 percent -- is set aside for training courses, but apparently these courses do not have to be as intensive as initially feared."
  • Such migrations are not without their obstacles. "Two years ago, the administration temporarily mothballed (German) the project so it could clear up software patent issues, which has been more are less accomplished (German)." I don't know what the patent issues were (perhaps someone else does and can use the comment section below to point us in the right direction.  The story goes on to say "that negotiations with project partners had turned out to be more complex than expected" which was another cause of the delays.

The story has some other juicy details that might be worthwhile checking into. Munich has apparently had observers coming in from all over the world to see how things are going. Perhaps, if you're considering such a move en masse, they'll let you come check things out too. One other side note. When I was at Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo earlier this month, the majority of IT managers I spoke to (some of whom I caught on tape) considered desktop Linux to be a non-starter. But, as long as we have polling functionality here on ZDNet, why not expand the poll to all of you online. Here's the question I asked at Gartner:

[poll id=7]

Topic: Linux

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105 comments
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  • "Coulda been a contenda"

    The answer you get is going to be heavily dependent on whether the question is, "can it meet our needs" or "can I sell this idea to the Powers That Be."

    I've met too many IT managers who were solidly convinced that switching to Linux meant that staff would have to do without e-mail, for instance.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • eMail is important.

      Why criticize a manager who doesn't want to switch to an operating system that deprives the company of essential functionality?

      These are good, sophisticated IT sections contributing to the company that is paying the money.

      As proven by the fact that the best possible people were selected, supplied all possible worthwhile training and other sources of information, and then put in positions in which the company relies upon their judgment.

      These people justify the company's confidence by assuring that the company continues to have essential services such as eMail.

      A situation like the one you describe proves, as if there could be doubt, that IT sections will continue. Forever. Or at least as long as Microsoft is around. Okay, forever.
      Anton Philidor
      • Why indeed

        [i]Why criticize a manager who doesn't want to switch to an operating system that deprives the company of essential functionality?[/i]

        Because the nitwit was making an important decision without even doing the absolute minimum of research, as proven by the fact that [i]Linux has e-mail[/i].

        I realize that this latest revelation may come as a shock to you, too, Anton -- I'll give you some time to adjust to the discovery.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • Of course Linux has email.

          Note the statement at the end that some IT sections are reliant on Microsoft. The rest considers what that means about companies with such IT sections. Intending irony.

          Sigh. If it must be explained it hasn't worked.
          Anton Philidor
          • Collaboration

            I think what Yagotta is referring to is not just an email system but a complete office collaboration system such as MS Exchange, IBM-Lotus Notes, or Novell GroupWise. Systems that allow users the share calendars and contacts, schedule appointments, schedule resources, use task lists, etc. and of course email.

            I too think this is a show stopper for the Linux desktop. Novell has been moving GroupWise that direction by putting the back end on Linux and developing clients for Windows, Linux, and MAC desktops, but it's not free and not well known.

            The biggest problem is many IT managers and most managers in general think MS Outlook when you discuss email collaboration systems. Some managers don't even realize there is an Exchange server infrastructure to support that. They say "let's use Outlook. I want Outlook. I can't get anything done without Outlook...". Then you give them the price tag for the infrastructure and they can't believe it.

            Bottom line is they can't give up their Windows desktop, because they can't do without the Outlook collaboration features. Anything else to them is just a featureless cheap substitute.
            dwest_z
          • Lotus notes...

            [url=http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060710-7222.html]IBM comes through...[/url]

            [url=http://www.novell.com/products/groupwise/sysreqs.html]GroupWise is there.[/url]

            Just to let ya know! ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • alternatives

            You are right GroupWise is there, and IBM is coming.

            Ironically I have run into a few companies that instead of relying on an exchange server have a Suse Linux Enterprise Server with e-directory and groupwise, but then as clients have several hundred Windows XP workstations with Office (and Outlook) 2003.
            In that situation I think I'd rather support a bunch of Suse Linux workstations instead, at least I would not have to deal with users installing crap all the time (or not being able to burn a CD, use a scanner, or whatever if I take their admin rights away).
            bluescreen_z
  • Microsoft was actually cheaper

    An earlier story had it that MS has actually come in with a bid that was $30 million cheaper but Munich still went with Linux.

    Arthas
    JamesNT
    • USA Today Article

      Here is a link to back up the numbers I used. I was off a little because I was going by memory.

      http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2003-07-13-microsoft-linux-munich_x.htm

      Arthas
      JamesNT
      • Munich could have wanted to keep

        local software vendors going. It's not the first time we've heard about a government someplace that choose to do this or that in order to keep a local economy going, and many times it really has proven more costy to local taxpayers

        MS could very well have been much cheaper in the long run, but by going open sorce, you can get your software industry growing at the taxpayer's expense, without giving the money directly to these ventures, as this would keep your products off the shelves of most countries if you did.
        John Zern
        • Important facts left out...

          The whole deal will be customized, so when the people leave who set the mess up you have to have someone to replace them. It sounds like a hotwired cluster of junk.

          What about Novell - SuSE SLED 10 that is a solid desktop with support or RedHat RHEL4 on the desktop. This is a big nightmare plus spending 44 million on this is out of control. What a waste of money for Debian give me a break.
          Linux User 1
        • Pure ideology.

          When Munich had decided to switch to Linux, they attempted to find local companies to assist. There were none. Eventually two local companies were found (assembled?) that were able to take the contract.

          Munich was able to oppose a large corporation, successful capitalism. And one from the US, as well. That made any cost worthwhile.

          The original proposal was prepared with significant assistance from a non-local company called IBM.

          Eventually, after IBM participated in initial planning, it decided to withdraw, apparently.

          Because it happened shortly after, I think there was a connection with IBM's subsequent European consolidation. IBM gave up on the government Linux market as demonstrated in Munich.
          Anton Philidor
          • Long term support & fees

            How much is it going to cost support wise, and who is going to be there 24/7 long term.

            These are serious questions that are often overlooked, what about custom written programs or scripts in house?

            In my opinion RedHat or SuSE would have been a better choice being the fact they have standards/support and will be around in 5 years.

            This sounds like to me it was a show of we can do this, but when it is all said and done the end result will not be desired.
            Linux User 1
    • What a rip-off on this deal...

      Plus not to mention all of the training involved or did they need an extra $44.5 mil for that to.
      Linux User 1
      • Do the sums...

        ... That $44m is 62% for various tasks such as conversion and 38% for training as spec.d in the article. So that works out at

        [pre]
        $44.5m for 14,000 PCs = $3178 per PC, of which
        $16.9m for training = $1207 per PC/user
        Spend on "other things" $1971 per PC/user
        [/pre]

        Now - we don't know what that $1971 was for - did it include new kit? Data conversions? Software installation? At $100 per hour it buys 20 hours.
        bportlock
        • Strange math.

          Numbers looked good but assignment of them was off.

          >>>"The project appears to be coming in on-budget (US$44.5 million). "The largest share of that budget ? 38 percent ? is set aside for training courses, but apparently these courses do not have to be as intensive as initially feared."<<<


          100% was set aside for the entire project or 44.5 million or $3178.57 per machine and user.

          38% was set aside for training or $16.91 million or $1207.86 per user. Non of this is going for equipment, just the volks.

          62% was set aside for machines or $27.59 million or $1970.71 per machine. This includes the software.

          This is a better deal than you think. It gets even better because some of the training money is not needed and can be reallocated to other things. MS offered them a better deal but MS will have to be changed out more often, so MS would not save them money. Hope it works for them.
          osreinstall
    • cheaper

      Crack dealers usually give the first one or two purchases for a significantly reduced price or free.
      dwest_z
  • No kidding

    My question is, who the hell thought that was a fair price? I could get 14,000 top end PC's with an OS or no OS at all for easily hal that.
    With Linux being free how does that price get jacked up so high?

    They said the bulk of that budget was for training, but seriously, Linux may not be as easy as Windows or Mac, but millions for training seems very very very excessive.

    I'm all for governments using Linux, I think it makes sense not to put your computing future in the hands of a corporation, and if done properly, Linux can be a much cheaper alternative.
    But it's a serious shame to see a government get taken for a ride in the process.

    Governments usually aren't using heavy multimedia software, and they aren't trying to compete with anyone for cutting edge anything. Plus in Europe the ODF and Linux itself are catching on big time.

    Munich should have done their homework first before putting this out to bid.
    WebThingy
    • Get Linux into schools NOW

      If Linux can make substantial inroads into schools NOW, in a decade the costs of training the workforce to use Linux instead of Windows will be much lower. Just think how things will be with a new generation of workers raised on Linux. "What's a 'Windows' key, gramps? ;)
      bmgoodman
      • Teaching Linux.

        "I'm not certain how to do that, Timmie. I always use Windows, but the School Board decided to save money by having us teach Linux instead. We had some training, but it didn't include the answer to your question.
        I'll call someone for the answer now. He's at work at a private company, but he said any teacher could call him at any time with a problem."

        "Mrs. Marm, what's Linux?"

        "A pain in the... in the neck, Lohengren.
        Actually, it's supposed to be a cheaper version of Windows, but there's a lot of work before it can compete. Except to our School Board."
        Anton Philidor