the face of a possible IT migration disaster, it's always better to err on the side of caution. This is exactly what the city of Munich has done.
A few years ago, it embarked on a massive project to switch
from Windows to open source. News of the migration travelled far
and wide, resulting in front page coverage on USA Today and
various meetings with representatives from Japan, Poland, Denmark
The move, originally set for this year, was to involve 14,000
desktops from Windows NT 4.0 to Linux, and Microsoft Office 97
and Office 2000 to OpenOffice.org.
Specifically, the free Linux operating system Debian was selected after a tender
According to documents released in 2004, the city identified
about 300 applications which required migration. Then, project
leader Peter Hofmann highlighted the importance of integrating
OpenOffice with its SAP products.
To test the waters, Hofmann had his eye on running OpenOffice
and Microsoft Office in parallel by mid-2005.
With such a mammoth task ahead, it was expected that LiMux,
the project's code name, would face a few bumps along the
One of the first setbacks was a postponement in the project in
mid-2004 due to concerns over patent issues. But that was
resolved within a few months and the migration exercise gained
"It became clear later in the planning phase that a pilot was
more important than we first thought and should last longer,"
said Hofmann. The Lord Mayor's department will be the first to
port to OpenOffice and Debian, but this will only happen in
stages starting in mid-2006.
Open source detractors will be licking their lips with glee on
news of the latest postponement especially since it was reported
that Microsoft has attempted to stymie the change.
But despite all forms of pressure -- including one incident in
2003 where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is believed to have
interrupted a holiday in Switzerland to personally visit the
mayor -- the city of Munich is sticking to its guns.
Deciding to delay a project takes a lot of courage. The city
of Munich should be commended for its brave and wise decision.
After all, there's no shame in being extra patient for the sake
of long term gain.