€6m: the amount the municipality of Turin hopes to save over five years by switching from Windows XP to Ubuntu Linux in all of its offices.
The move will mean installing the open source operating system on 8,300 PCs, which will generate an immediate saving of roughly €300 per machine (almost €2.5m altogether, made up from the cost of Windows and Office licences) — a sum that will grow over the years as the need for the renewal of proprietary software licences vanishes, and the employees get used to the new machines.
Or rather, to the old ones. Another reason for the switch was that the computers Turin uses are quite old, and installing Windows 8 would have probably been too demanding for them, whereas Linux offers more flexibility with more mature machines. And, as the support for Windows XP officially ended this year, sticking with Microsoft didn't make much sense to Turin. The switch to Ubuntu was officially approved in early August and is expected to take around a year and a half to complete.
The move has been in the offing for some time, according to councilwoman Fosca Nomis of the Democratic Party. "We've been discussing this since about two years ago," she told ZDNet. "The project was temporarily put aside due to economic concerns — it probably would have been too costly switching from XP while we still had valid and paid licences running." Now that those Windows licences are expiring, however, the time is ripe to experiment with new products.
While the economic argument is the main driver behind Turin's decision, it's fair to say that the city certainly offers a favourable environment for open source: from Turin University's Nexa Center for Internet and Society, to the city's polytechnic, to the Officina Informatica Libera (a community for Linux enthusiasts), there's no shortage of places where free software topics are being debated. Yet more proof of the region's open source links: the 'Cyberia – Turin as the open source software capital' event is taking place on 14 September, which will feature open source guru Richard Stallman as one of its speakers.
Thanks to the high profile and authority of its institutions, Turin could also have an influence on other Italian cities.
"Turin, of course, is not the first Italian municipality to switch to Linux," Nomis said, "but it's perhaps one of the biggest so far, and we believe it could set an example for other cities to follow, starting with the smallest towns surrounding the Piedmontese capital, which will be invited to adopt the model used by the [region's] main administrative centre."
Provided, of course, as the transition is as successful and painless as possible. Recently, the city of Munich — perhaps the best known local government organisation to have switched from Windows to Linux — was rumoured to be considering switching back. However, the truth about Munich's plans seems much more nuanced than was initially reported.
In Italy, the City of Naples was the subject of a recent controversy about whether the municipality, which in 2007 partially switched to Linux, was considering a return to Microsoft.