Microsoft won't release study that challenged success of Munich's Linux migration

The study claimed that staying with Microsoft was cheaper than migrating to Linux, a German publication reported

Microsoft and Hewlett Packard won't share a study claiming that the German city of Munich had its numbers wrong when it calculated switching from Windows to Linux saved the city millions -- although an HP employee did provide the data to a German publication that reported on the results.

By switching from Windows to its own Linux distribution, LiMux, Munich has saved over ¬11 million (US$14.3 million) so far, the city announced in November. But a Microsoft-commissioned Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) study conducted by HP suggests that the city's numbers are wrong, and claims that Munich would have saved ¬43.7 million if it had stuck with Microsoft, German weekly Focus reported earlier this week.

If Munich had stayed with Windows XP combined with Office 2003 instead of choosing Linux combined with OpenOffice.org, it would have saved money, the study apparently claimed. Operating the Microsoft software (not including licensing fees) would cost ¬17 million, while the alternative will amount to almost ¬61 million, the report stated, according to Focus.

The city's own calculations did not consider all migration costs, according to the report. It apparently claimed that Munich compared the migration to a 10-year-old Linux version with a migration to a newer version of Windows, probably Windows 7, and said that if the city had stuck with Windows, no new software would have been necessary.

Furthermore, 25 percent of the desktops are still running Windows, because not all applications can be migrated to Linux, the report claimed.

But while the HP employee responsible for the study provided the German publication with details of the report, HP and Microsoft are now unwilling to disseminate it more broadly.

"The study was commissioned by Microsoft to HP Consulting for internal purposes only," said Microsoft's German communications manager Astrid Aupperle on Tuesday. Microsoft commissioned the TCO study on Munich's migration to Linux because the company would "like to have some recommendations for other projects," she said. She declined any further comment on the study.

Since the report was commissioned by Microsoft, HP also declined to comment, said Anette Nachbar, spokeswoman for HP.

"I would struggle to see how a Windows deployment would be cheaper than a Linux installment," said Roy Illsley, principal analyst at Ovum, who added that he couldn't imagine why Microsoft wouldn't release a study that actually proved that Microsoft is cheaper than Linux. "I would suspect that they read it and they suspected that there are some errors in there," he said.

After reading Focus' report, Karl-Heinz Schneider, head of the Munich's municipal IT service IT@M, immediately asked Microsoft to provide him with the study, he said in a statement released by the city on Tuesday. However, Microsoft also refused to send it to him, said Stefan Hauf, spokesman for the city.

"What I could gather from the press so far poses considerable doubt on the validity of the study," said Schneider in the emailed statement.

The study for instance overlooked the lion's share of the project's savings, almost ¬7 million, by not considering the licensing costs that would have been incurred when Microsoft products would have been used, Schneider said.

Furthermore, it is not true that no new software would be necessary if the city had kept using Windows, he said. "A major trigger for the decision to test the operating system architecture was precisely Microsoft's announcement that it would drop support for Windows NT," he said, adding that Windows NT was the city's standard OS at the time.

"A migration to a new operating system was therefore inevitable," Schneider said.

Munich began migrating from Windows NT to LiMux in 2006. The city hopes to have migrated 14,000 desktops to LiMux this year.

The claim that the city compared the costs for a migration to a 10-year-old version of Linux with the costs for a migration to Windows 7 is also incorrect, Schneider said. The LiMux client over the years has gradually been optimized in such a way that it is now incomparable to the version the city set out with, and the current version can easily be compared to Windows 7, Schneider added.

It is true that Munich will be unable to stop using Windows entirely because it will be unable to migrate some programs Linux. But, the claim that one in every four desktops still runs Windows is also wrong, said Schneider.

"It is true that not all business applications can be migrated to Linux," he said. But all Web-based business applications can be used without conversion costs under LiMux, and most applications that are tightly integrated with Microsoft can also be used by the Linux client with the use of other standard techniques, he added.

Currently, almost 87 percent, or 13,000 of 15,000 PCs, are migrated to LiMux, he said.

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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