Washington state rejects open source

Washington state rejects open source

Summary: Dressel has expanded his proposal to using Zimbra as well as OpenOffice, which he says will save $1.8 million. Zimbra would replace the department's present Exchange Server, OpenOffice would replace Microsoft Office.


National, state and local governments are all waking up to the opportunity open source offers to save money, to do more, and to collaborate.

Washington state, the home of Microsoft, appears to be an exception. At least to hear Josh Dressel tell it. (Washington entered the Union on the 100th anniversary of President Washington's inauguration.)

Dressel, an IT specialist in Olympia, the state capitol, writes a blog called the Chrome Toaster, where he has detailed his unsuccesful efforts to wean his employer, the state's Department of Natural Resources, from Microsoft.

It started when Dressel submitted a proposal to avoid lay-offs in the department through the use of OpenOffice. The response was to ignore him and raise the executive drawbridges.

Dressel did what most people would do. He wrote his state representative. He was motivated by the fact that lay-offs are to begin May 1 and, as a squeaky wheel, he might naturally fear getting greased.

See if his summary of the situation doesn't match up with what you have found at your place of business:

 Our agency is vendor driven. I believe the entire state might be similar in nature. Instead of contacting vendors after consultants and R&D has put time into mapping agency needs, vendors contact those individuals with purchasing authority and pitch the merchandise they claim works best. This might get the job done, but it is an inefficient way of doing business.

Dressel has expanded his proposal to using Zimbra as well as OpenOffice, which he says will save $1.8 million. Zimbra would replace the department's present Exchange Server, OpenOffice would replace Microsoft Office.

He says the initial cost of doing all this is not monetary, but staff time, and the department has staff. He concludes, "The status of IT at the DNR is we continue to be a Microsoft shop without any sound data to back staying this course."

It will be interesting to see if Dressel's name is on the lay-off list, and whether the local press picks up on his crusade.

Topics: Open Source, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

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  • Perfect example...

    Of what loibiest have the power to do. MS gets the big guys in their pocket. And then those big guys could care less if they lose half their workforce so long as they get whatever MS promised them.
    • Brain dead moron

      If Microsoft is sooooooooo powerful and buying everyone out, can you explain all the other instances where a government organization has switched? What, Microsoft just didn't spread enough wealth around?
      • Apparently...

        You have never been to washington state. MS has a LOT of power there, as they employ a lot of people. The state was even going to use federal stimulous money to build things on the microsoft campus. They would never allow anything that was not MS into their computer system. Regardless of how much it saved them.
    • In this case

      I would say it's more the fact that the majority of MS's employees vote on these people, and that money in MS's pocket is more money in their state's economy.

      I'm sure there were lobbyists too, however given these facts it would not take too much arm twisting to convince the politicians.
      Michael Kelly
  • Just what problem is he trying to solve with the move to Open Office?

    Where does the $1.8 million figure come from? The article states the savings are in staff time. How does moving to OO save staff time?

    While the details are lacking this appears to be nothing more than an OSS advocate trying to push OSS for the sake of moving to OSS.
    • Might want to reread the article

      "He says the initial cost of doing all this is not monetary, but staff time, and the department has staff."

      I would say licensing costs
    • Reading comprehension fail

      He doesn't say that the "savings" are in staff time, he actually says that staff time is one of the costs of the transition. The savings would come from not having to pay licensing fees, and by not sending money to Microsoft they would therefore be able to avoid laying off employee's. Actually not having to keep track of licensing would save staff time so there you have it. I think this is a great idea and wish more businesses would do this as it could preserve a company's profitability as well as drive software prices down.
      User 13
      • Apparently so.

        [i]Reading comprehension fail[/i]

        I still don't see a business case here. I didn't read anything about the state migrating to a new version of Office. Nor did I see them migrating to a new version of Exchange. The implication is there but that's about it. Or is my lack of reading comprehension rearing its head here too?
    • Or for the sake of keeping his own job

      You also have to wonder if he was doing so as to save his own job: It could have actually cost more money to switch, but when attempting to save one's position, is that really a concern?
    • what problem?


      I'm trying to reduce the expense of software licensing. It currently costs our agency $318 per machine to use Microsoft Office. I'm also trying to save jobs.

      The figure of $1.8 million comes from the combined savings of using OpenOffice.org and Zimbra over the next biennium. It's on this page.

      Not sure at all where you got the idea of saving staff. Did you read the blog at all?
      • Where did the $318 number come from?

        [i]It currently costs our agency $318 per machine to use Microsoft Office.[/i]

        Is this a new license cost? Support? Both? Something else?
        • $318

          The figure of $318 is what our agency pays per machine for a license of Microsoft Office. I got the figure from the IT specialist who manages our licensing. She also gave me the figures for the number of PCs we currently pay a license fee for, which is 1,930 machines.
  • RE: Washington state rejects open source

    Exactly, unless Washington state was on the verge of updating all of its machines to Office 2007 with an Exchange 2007 backbone. How exactly was he saving them money. They would have lost money in the time spent implementing the switch and training its staff to use the new software. The joke is, at some point, someone down the road would say, "Hey why aren't we using MS? It's better." And the money would be spent anyway.
    • True

      This is something I've found out time and time again. The cost of upgrading to Office is NEGLIGIBLE. Now, my experience is limited to businesses and not the government, which has tighter budgets, but I really can't see how moving to OpenOffice would save any money. Zimbra could possibly save money, depending on how the Exchange server is configured and what it might cost to scale that.

      I like open source as much as the next guy, and I think it has a lot of uses, but I don't see any compelling reason from reading this article as to why the state of Washington should have listened to this guy.
      • Actually, MS Office is quite expensive, and the average user just types

        simple memos, or does simple spreadsheets. Governments end up spending millions for something that is very lightly used, and where OpenOffice does what is needed. Switchover and training costs are a one time expense. Licensing costs are forever.
        • Hey, it is DonnieBoy

          Have you been busy, or do you not respond to the blogs in which open source or google are presented in a negative way.

          How do you know what they do in the government, DonnieBoy?

          I hear they do alot, and open office is just not capable enough for them.
        • I work for a Government Agency in California

          ... and you have NO idea how complex the usage is of Microsoft Access and Excel programs to keep track of many hundreds of items that Open Office would hurl on.

          Additionally, the automation possible with Office is lacking in Open Office, severely, to say the least.

          Can Open Office integrate with SharePoint? Can Ximbra offer the same out of the box experience for the end user as a tried and true Exchange platform?

          Have any studies been dones on the migration scenarios (absolutely necessary in any government institution)? Where is the FSR? The business case analysis? The business use model analysis? The fiscal analysis? The vendor requirements? The contractual agreements? The SLAs? (wonder how Open Office would handle a Service Level Agreement with a governmental agency?)

          In other words, you have NO idea how a government agency uses its office products, nor the process to change from an existing system to another.

          Having a wild hair and saying, "Hey, free software will save us a buttload of money and maybe my job" will get you laughed out of your position faster than you can say furlough!
          Confused by religion
          • That's exactly what the guy in Washington is saying

            He said thee has been no formal specification of the states needs, they just buy the software without considering what their needs are. It might be really easy to migrate. No one knows because a study hasn't been done.

            Your sharepoint argument is the worst. This product is a crock.

            Clearly however, you didn't read the article, and you've made your own strawman based on the exact opposite of the facts.
          • Well, the obvious conclusion from your post is...

            That none of these studies have been done (especially in CA). So, for you to say that OSS can't fit the requirements is a tad optimistic if all you have is your opinion.

            That aside, anyone who uses Access for anything significant has issues. It's about as sensible as doing an appendectomy with a blunt spoon.
  • RE: Washington state rejects open source

    I agree that the story is light on details so we don't know where these savings are coming from. The fact of the matter is that switching to another OS or Office suite involves a lot of really painful work...and lots and lots of time (= money). If you just take one application (Excel) and look at the hundreds of macros people have programmed over the years, and have become de facto applications themselves, remediating just that can run into the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

    Guys like the one in this instance can only look at what they've ever been exposed to...namely acquisition and licensing costs...and rarely if ever do they see the entire spectrum of costs. I dare say that the State of Washington can save similarly if they just went to application streaming (i.e. App-V) and stopped worrying about app compat entirely. That in itself would probably save several milion of year (starting about 18 months in...)