Switching to Linux saves Munich over €11 million

The city has now migrated over 80 percent of its 15,500 desktops to LiMux, it's own distribution of Linux.

By switching from Windows to LiMux, its own Linux distribution, the German city of Munich has saved over ¬11 million (US$14.3 million) to date compared to the costs of a similar migration to a more modern Microsoft-based IT infrastructure.

The city government estimated that Migrating from Windows 2000 to a combination of Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 would have cost it a little over ¬34 million in total. Switching to LiMux and the OpenOffice.org desktop productivity suite has cost it ¬22.8 million, according to a cost comparison published last week that detailed the cost of migrating 11,000 users to open source applications on Linux.

The city also calculated the costs of a possible migration to Windows 7 and OpenOffice. That step would have amounted to ¬29.9 million.

These figures include the cost of software licenses, necessary hardware upgrades, training, external migration support and optimization processes, among other things.

Migrating to LiMux allowed the city to save ¬6.8 million on software licenses compared to migrating to Microsoft Office on Windows 7, and to avoid ¬4.7 million in hardware upgrade costs because LiMux runs on the city's existing hardware, the city said in the document.

In the OpenOffice-on-Windows scenario, new hardware, licenses and application migration would have cost ¬7.4 million.

One budget line on which LiMux cost more than Windows was the migration of a development system for database-based web applications. Migrating this to LiMux cost ¬273,132, around five times what it would have cost under the two Windows options.

Munich started the LiMux project in 2004 and began migrating from Windows NT to a fully open source desktop infrastructure in 2006, but most PCs being migrated to LiMux right now are equipped with Windows 2000, said Joachim Schuler, migration coordinator of the LiMux project.

The city of Munich has extended OpenOffice with an in-house tool it calls WollMux, which adds features including templates, forms and letterheads. The city uses ODF (OpenDocument Format) as its document interchange standard. 

Munich is planning to migrate from a now-outdated version of OpenOffice, 3.2.1, to LibreOffice next year, said Schuler. After Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, which then managed the OpenOffice.org project, some OpenOffice developers forked the code to create LibreOffice. Oracle has since contributed the OpenOffice.org project to the Apache Foundation.

As of January the city had 15,000 desktops running the Firefox browser, Thunderbird mail client and OpenOffice productivity suite rather than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Outlook and Office. Migration of the underlying OS is taking a little longer. From 11,000 desktops at the time the cost study was prepared, the number of desktops running LiMux has now reached 12,600 and by the end of the year the city plans to have migrated 13,000 of the total of 15,500 desktops.

Schuler hopes to reach 14,000 LiMux systems next year, but says that because the city will be unable to migrate some programs, there will always be some machines running Windows. Most of those are now running Windows XP, and the city plans to upgrade them to Windows 7.

Munich's experience sharply contrasts with that of Freiburg, another German city that ventured down the open source path. Last week its city council decided to dump a combination of an outdated version of OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2000 and switch to Microsoft Office 2010.

Compatibility problems and underperforming spreadsheet and presentation programs in the open source office suite aggravated and frustrated employees left the council's hopes for OpenOffice unfulfilled, it said. These were important reasons to contemplate Microsoft Office, which was the only viable option, the council said.

Open source advocates attempted to sway the council's decision by calling for the government to give updated versions of OpenOffice or its LibreOffice counterpart a chance and pointing out Munich's open source adoption.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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