London council ditches Linux plans

London council ditches Linux plans

Summary: Newham Borough says migrating to Linux would put its services at "unacceptable levels of risk"

London's Newham Borough Council has ditched plans to move to an open source environment and will instead concentrate on negotiating a new deal with Microsoft that could act as a model for other public sector bodies.

The council had been involved in its own Linux trials last year with the Net Project group but council officers decided such a major migration would pose "unacceptable levels of risk" to council services.

Nor will Newham take part in the Office of Government Commerce open source trials with IBM, instead focusing its energies on talks with Microsoft.

Richard Steel, head of ICT at Newham, told that while the council will continue to monitor open source, the time is not right for such a switch given Newham's complex IT environment.

"We got to the point where we understood the market for open source enough to make a decision. At this point in time the risks were too great," he said. "In terms of moving forward in other areas such as groupware, there were significant difficulties in migrating."

Steel said it is easier for "greenfield" IT sites to move to Linux than those with established and heterogeneous set-ups.

Newham currently has around 5,000 desktops running various operating systems and different versions of Microsoft Office but will be looking to standardise on Windows XP if negotiations with Microsoft go well.

"The goal from the start has been standardisation and that is part of the negotiations with Microsoft," said Steel. "It is interesting to see how Microsoft has reacted in the last six months. They have a much better understanding of the environment we have and the strategy and context, and that open source has a role in that."

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I hope they enjoy their choice of "vendor lockin".
  • "It is interesting to see how Microsoft has reacted in the last six months" - see Linux as a threat saves you money even if you don't end up using it!
  • I don't buy it. I think it's more a case of "I think, therefore Bill Gates" here. People tend to get a bit upset when you try and make changes to their cosy little world and IT staff are no exception. The implementation of Linux at Newham would have probably exposed the fact that the IT staff and users would find Linux totally alien to them and that an extremely steep learning curve would have been required in order for them to gain a sufficient level of competence (and confidence) in the new OS.

    Instead Newham have now shown their hand early because to change would probably mean that some real work would have to be undertaken, and at the same time given good old M$ the green light to continue fleecing the good people of the borough.

    Nice to know that your elected officials have your best interests at heart aint it!
  • I don't think the tax payers will be greatful when they pay for the most unsecure , unstable and most hacked system in the world today. When the solution costs nada , nothing, zip , zero, 0.....
  • It doesn't look like the strongest negotiaion stance to tell Microsoft that it doesn't have any competition.
  • There are several possible explanations for this:
    1 Newham really does have an extraordinarily complex and badly designed computer setup that would take years to unravel, so they are better off sticking to the status quo.
    2 Newham IT staff are either idle or incompetent or both, and don't want to get involved in anything that sounds like work.
    3 Being a local authority, they are probably very risk averse.
    4 Those who control the purse strings take a very short term view, and would rather spend much more tomorrow if it means they can spend a bit less today.
    5 They don't care. After all, the poor old rate-payers will pick up the tab.
    6 The evaluation process was flawed. It's a big job, and it is unlikely that the ITstaff of Newham Borough Council would have much relevant experience.
    7 It was the right decision. Microsoft products are more reliable, less prone to security problems, cheaper to buy, and are sold by one of the world's most ethical companies.
    8 Money changed hands.

    There may be others that I haven't thought of. I hope the reason wasn't the last one, though the possibility shouldn't be ruled out, given that Microsoft (as Enron did) pays enormous amounts to American congressman every year. (These are not bribes - just charitable donations to poor impoverished lawmakers to keep the wheels of democracy turning smoothly).

    My guess is that it's actually a combination of most of the first seven. Nobody in their right mind would expect high quality decision making from a blighted borough like Newham.
  • is this decision in relation of the support to irak war and M$ paid large amount of money to bush campaign ?
    I don't believe that.

    futur will judge the decision
  • This is outrageous to pay
  • Its amazing how the hatred of Microsoft clounds normally rational judgement to the point that any decision in their favour is discounted out of hand as corrupt or stupid.
  • But it is either corrupt or stupid for a borough like Newham to use Microsoft when there are better and cheaper/free alternatives. You have clearly not used modern versions of Linux on the desktop, or seen how good Open Office is.
    Linux at home is a different matter as it is still rather more difficult than Windows to set up, or install new programs. Also, there is not yet the breadth of software available on Linux.
    These arguments don't apply in a large work environment, where admin is done by trained professionals, and all that most users require is access to email, wp, spreadsheets, etc, plus whatever application they might use to collect the rates and run the council housing.
    Newham should be collaborating with other boroughs to rewrite all its specialist local authority software on open-source databases like Postgres. It's not too difficult, and will save millions, as well as providing far greater flexibility.
    The problem with so many of these statutory bodies is that without shareholders it's too tempting for them to take the easy way out and go with the stus quo.
  • George Lazarette :" <i>But it is either corrupt or stupid for a borough like Newham to use Microsoft when there are better and cheaper/free alternatives. " </i>

    Here we go again. Yet more vitriol from the loony left, Microsoft hating linux fundamentalist crazies!
    All anyone ever hears from these linux psychopaths is vicious fanatical, visceral anti-microsoft rants with no basis in fact or reason.
    Nothing new there.
    Lets look at a few facts as separate from the fiction you just let rip shall we?
    1. Newham Borough is neither corrupt or stupid as you yell out.
    I should know, having lived there (in Plaistow) for 6 years and paid taxes there.
    2.This whole software purchase process was one of the most open I have ever seen. There was a a very thorough "man to man" combat between linux and Windows, taking everything into consideration , including TCO, and Windows won hands down!
    3. I have yet to see any so-called "Open Office" application that even comes close to being as good as Microsoft Office 2003.Its light years better than the amateurish, toy "Open Office". Every survey I have seen has Microsoft Office being by far the best Office Suite on the planet.
    4. Every single comparison TCO comparison of Windows to linux by established ,reputable world renown IT analysts like IDC and Gartner have Windows come out with afar better TCO than linux every single time.
    .You are bitter and full of bile because Linux lost. GREAT! Go jump over a steep cliff if you can't live with it.
    5. The Taxpayers of Newham are not going to sit idly by while an inferior product(linux) is chosen over the superior product (Windows), especially when the inferior product (linux) actually ends up costing far more than Windows!
    6. Anyone who has the slightest modicum of common sense knows that you don't start off on IT projects by choosing the Operating System. You start off with the applications that are vital to your business, then you choose the Operating System that runs those applications. Who in their right minds are going to choose linux Newham when most of their vital applications are written on Windows? Only a Linux fanatic will make such a mindless decision.
  • I see. No doubt it was rational arguments of this sort that won the day for Microsoft. I am sure Mr Steel will be glad to have such a formidable intellectual force amongst his supporters.
    Pity you missed the fact that he didn't say there was anything wrong with Linux, just that " it is easier for "greenfield" IT sites to move to Linux than those with established and heterogeneous set-ups."
    He clearly wants to go with Linux, but thinks the migration will be too problematical at this time given his existing setup.
    But, as this wasn't the message you wanted to hear, you pretended it wasn't there. Goodnight, and keep taking the medication.
  • From Newham council web site
    Newhams mayor visited the US recently... with friends... someone else picked up all expenses... Sounds dodgy... Looks like money changed hands after all...

    No wonder they happy to pay millions to Microsoft instead of using FREE software and supporting local IT companies.

    The six-day trip was sponsored by the American Embassy in London and I was accompanied by councillors Christine Bowden and Tony McAlmont, along with council officers Chris Wood, Martin Lewis and Ian Tompkins. The Embassy met all our expenses in America, including hotels and transport, while the air fares to and from the States were funded from fees earned by council officials on speaking engagements. Our first stop was Washington DC. Our hosts for the visit were Paul Engelstad, of the US Department of State, and Valerie Gilpin, of the International Visitor Program (IVP). They look after some 4,000 visitors to the US each year. With a population of three million, Washington is a city of many differences and is not unlike London....
  • Most of the talk seems to be centered around not being able to find anything that works with the older version of Exchange server which they cannot afford to upgrade. Have these people never heard of Ximian connector? Sure its not free, but they are going to have to pay some amount of money for some applications anyway. Oh, and from experience Exchange Server 2003 is no better at supporting other platforms that use open standard protcols for connectivity.
  • OK Lets see:

    Newham trials OSS and has viable plan in place.

    Gordon Brown invites Billionaire Bill Gates, a convicted monopolist and practiser of unethical and predatory business practises, to a conference on entrepenuership to give himself cred in case Tony jacks his job in (Bit like inviting Vlad the Impaler to talk on the subject on human compassion but when did ethics matter in New Britain)

    Newham (Labour Council) drops high profile trial and takes the Microsoft discount bribe.

    Dear oh dear, there used to be a time when British technologists led the world by displaying acts of great creativity and independance. No wonder we're now the petty little tin pot dump of a nation we've now become
  • OK, Bribe may be too strong a word.

    Still think this country is an unimaginitive, piss poor shadow of itself seemingly full of people who are so scared to be held accountable for even the most minor of hitches that they'd rather carry on regardless.

  • It is amazing that one place can find Linux more expensive, risky or just won't work. Or that they can find a million reasons why Linux won't work.

    Yet Ernie Ball just down the street finds Linux working great, of lower cost, and completely dependable.

    All you have to do it to go out and "do it!"...

    If your present IT are unable/unwilling to change, fire them!

    All you have to do is look at the successful installations.

    Linux DID NOT fail here, this government group did.
  • Here's an idea!
    Let's just stop paying taxes and send all our spare cash directly to Redmond. This is where we are headed anyway, so let's just cut out the middle man.
  • Lack of IT skills is the real problem with adaption of Linux and the problem propogates through the school system to university to corporate level where (MS) brand loyalty is taught and accepted as a matter of fact.

    In fact "IT" is a misnomer - one should actually rephrase IT as MT for Microsoft Technology in many "IT" departments.

    Although most responsible management regimes advocate spread of risk and choice in vendor/product/supplier - in the corporate IT environment these sound principles are often ignored.

    In my experience - "IT managers" would rather let their companies and share holders foot the enormous bills for the comfort and luxury of expensive proprietary and "user-friendly" software which "makes it easy" for them to disguise their genuine lack of any real IT skills.
  • .. and now we have the great ASN.1 vulnerability that Microsoft did not wan to admit to for 200 odd days. Affecting all operating systems and having paths into them from multiple points.

    To the individual who stated that Microsoft operating systems were more stable and secure, are you, perhaps, using an Apple? It would seem that Sales does not bother to keep up with security advisories.

    I do not have any information on the rationale for the decision, however, from one reader perspective that the time was not right, I feel that might be the best bet. Personally, moving 5000 desktops and servers to a homogenous environment is just wrong. The upgrade woes alone are going to keep Mr. Steel up for weeks!