Open source wins the day once again in Munich

Open source wins the day once again in Munich

Summary: The City of Munich, famous for dropping Windows for a Linux OS, has chosen open-source software to handle mail and calendar for its staff.


The authority running the German city of Munich, famous for ditching Windows in favour of a home-grown Linux OS, has chosen an open-source software suite to handle email and calendar for its staff.

The City of Munich has chosen to use the Kolab Enterprise groupware software to manage mail, calendar, task, and contact lists.

The decision comes soon after the council completed a nine year project to migrate more than 14,800 of its PCs from Windows to Limux, a custom build of Ubuntu — a choice the project lead described as not being about saving money, but about freedom from lock-in.

Limux project lead Peter Hofmann signalled at the time that the city of Munich would do its best not to let itself become too dependent on a single technology vendor again.

"We saw from the start that if you're only relying on one contributor to supply your operating system, your office system and your infrastructure, you're stuck with it," he said.

The switch to Kolab is part of the council's MigMak project and is planned to be complete by the end of 2014, according to tender documents. The migration will be managed by Kolab partner ESG.

The council's Limux and remaining Windows PCs — which it has kept for compatibility reasons — will run Kolab Enterprise 13's desktop and web client.

Kolab Enterprise 13 was released in December for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, with support for other platforms to be added later.

The groupware suite from Kolab Systems AG in Switzerland, was originally developed for the German Federal Office for Information Security.

Even though Munich's decision to leave Windows wasn't financially motivated, Munich said the move to open source software saved it more than €10m.

HP produced a report on behalf of Microsoft that claimed the shift to Limux and OpenOffice would cost Munich three times more than official figures – although Munich pointed out the report was based on a number of flawed assumptions, such as significantly overestimating the number of staff working on the project.

However, Limux project lead Hofmann admitted shifting away from Windows had been a difficult process, as the council wrestled with reconfiguring an infrastructure littered with proprietary formats and protocols to play nicely with LiMux and free software.

The City of Munich was unable to comment at this time.

More on Munich

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Open source wins the day once again in Munich

    Free to choose a tool. Life is beautiful.
    • And yet if they choose only one open source company

      to supply your operating system, their office system and their infrastructure, aren't you still stuck with it?

      And yet you could choose Windows, Open Office, and someone else for infrastructure, and never have that issue.

      I think it was an odd point to make as the relevancy wasn't there.
      • What in sam hill are you going on about now?

        Choose only one open source company? They build their own Linux distro (based on Ubuntu) for the OS; they use LibreOffice that they install and manage; they use Kolab 3.1 on RHEL for their mail/calendar services; they use Kolab's client (which is in turn built on KDE's contacts and calendar utility); they use various email clients. It's all open source (in fact, all GPL - and the Kolab software was in fact produced by a different German gov't agency).

        Where in that do you see an "issue" with being stuck with anything?
        • You must forgive William.Farrel

          For he knows not of what he speaks, as usual.
        • Oh, and don't forget

          Firefox, Thunderbird, Inkscape, GIMP, VLC, Audacity, ...
  • Kolab?

    I hope their Kolab solution is much better and less expensive than Microsoft's. Kind of hard not to be sarcastic but what do I know.
    • It is....

      Kolab Enterprise is available as a software subscription with included Service Level Agreement (SLA). The software needs to be installed and maintained on your own server. Kolab Systems offers assistance for these tasks.

      The following prices are provided in Swiss Franc (CHF):

      Kolab Enterprise Server - ActiveSync
      5 CHF per named user

      As far as better than Microsoft, You can try the demo and see for your self:

      Or read more about it here:
    • Why Kolab?

      There are good open source alternatives: SOGo (, Zimbra or Zarafa. Why did they choose Kolab?
  • Look closely people

    This is where we're all heading. Dependence on one tech source was so last decade.
    • True

      Now you can go all Apple :)
    • And yet

      They have to still keep Windows PCs around because of compatibility issues with current software. Wait until they lose all their email nad get their server hacked due to poor security. Open source costs them more in the long run.
      • Loose their email?

        Haven't seen that happen except on Windows based mail servers.
      • hop, How much does it cost?

        “Open source costs them more in the long run.”
  • Open source wins the day once again in Munich

    I can't wait to see Germany panic when this company stops developing their software which is typical of linux and open source. One day its a hot project, next day its forgotten and hasn't been updated in years. Then if they hire developers to maintain the code, once those developers move on to greener pastures Munich is really up the creek. They should not have migrated at all. Its going to hurt them more than anything.
    • “Vorsprung durch Technik”

    • It could have been far far worse

      They (Munich) could have bought everyone of their workers a Kin. After all, what could go wrong/ Reputable *cough* company, giant profits, going to be around forever! Sorry mate, they dropped it like it was an unwashed antipodean.
      • That is a Verizon issue

        And off topic.
        • This is Open Source article

          Not mobility.
    • Skill

      The City of Munich does have many skilled programmers and rely on different external companies as well. An Open Source project will only be deprecated by every developer when it does have a major flaw or is apparently useless. In my opinion LiMux was the best decision ever made.
  • Nine (9) years and 14,800 PCs, that's a long time

    Given the City's very strong open source leanings, why didn't they just go with a custom build of Debian GNU/Linux, where they could deploy old-stable, stable and testing (which is itself quite stable relative to many GNU/Linux distros out there) versions at various desktops in the organization. Select staff in the IT organization, the help desk excepted, would be an ideal location to run a custom build of Debian testing prior to moving it out to the organization as stable. And old-stable, which is supported for one (1) year, would provide a bit a breathing room if the migration to stable goes slower than planned (the City of Munich does not appear to be fast with migrations, for whatever reasons).

    I'd also like to know why the City of Munich didn't simply choose to use Ubuntu as-is with support provided by Canonical, Ltd. Why did it need a custom build of Ubuntu? Were Canonical's support costs too high?
    Rabid Howler Monkey