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28 January 2013, 16:31

Microsoft partly releases study on Munich's Linux migration

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LiMux logo Microsoft has releasedGerman language link a summary of the study compiled by HP on the Linux migration in Munich. In an article, German magazine Focus Money Online had last week quoted figures from an unpublished study that Microsoft had commissioned from HP. The study concludes that at €60.6 million (approximately £51 million), the City of Munich's Linux migration was considerably more expensive than reported by its council last November. However, last week, Microsoft Germany had emphasised that the study was compiled for internal purposes.

Questioning the City of Munich's figures by quoting a non-public study that could not be verified has sparked considerable criticism. Most likely it is in response to this that Microsoft has now released a summary of the study. Two tables in the document are designed to clarify why HP arrives at significantly higher costs for Munich's Linux/OpenOffice environment than for a solution involving Windows and Microsoft Office. HP estimates that migrating from Windows NT 4 and Microsoft Office to Linux and OpenOffice cost €60.6 million (£51 million):

Zoom Total cost of fully migrating to Ubuntu Linux with as estimated by HP
Source: Jan-Jürgen Eden, Hewlett-Packard GmbH

Migrating to Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003, on the other hand, would only have cost €17.0 million (£14.2 million), said the study:

Zoom Total cost of fully migrating to Windows XP with Office 2003 as estimated by HP
Source: Jan-Jürgen Eden, Hewlett-Packard GmbH

The LiMux project had presented its own figures to Munich's city council following a request by the council's Freie Wähler (Free Voters) group in November 2012. According to these figures, the City of Munich saved more than €10 million by using Linux and OpenOffice rather than Windows and Microsoft Office.

The biggest discernible item in HP's calculations is the cost for specialised applications that, HP says, are mostly designed for Windows and the Microsoft Office environment. Issues with such custom applications and problems when exchanging documents with external partners were the main reasons why Freiburg re-migrated to Microsoft Office.

However, HP's scenario is based on the assumption that all departmental specialised procedures will be ported to Linux, although in practice – as the study points out in various places – some of these custom procedures continue to be handled via terminal servers, in virtualised XP environments or under Windows on the remaining Windows computers. This approach has "most probably [...] kept the cost for introducing basic LiMux clients low", and explains the "discrepancy" between Munich city council's stipulated Linux migration costs of €23 million and the over €60 million that were calculated by HP.

The study does not comment on the fact that the €17 million for the Microsoft solution quoted in HP's study are far below the figure calculated by the City of Munich, which stipulated €34 million (£29 million) for a Windows and Microsoft Office scenario. The likely reason for this is an assumption by HP that Munich's administration would still be using Windows XP and Office 2003 if Munich had decided to go with Microsoft products; Munich's calculations, on the other hand, include an upgrade to Windows 7.

As the head of the City of Munich's municipal IT service IT@M, Karl-Heinz Schneider, pointed out last week, the Linux version used with LiMux has continually evolved and is now comparable to Windows 7. It is rather unrealistic to assume that the city would have stayed on Windows XP throughout the lifetime of the migration, instead of updating to a current version of Microsoft's operating system at some point.

The study contains other debatable assumptions: on page 10, it says that "Microsoft figures were preferably used for calculating the Windows scenario, while the City of Munich's figures were preferably used for calculating the LiMux scenario". There was one important exception, however. The study's author expressed "serious doubts" concerning the LiMux project's latest figures, which were released in November. Therefore, the author said, he based his calculations on "comparable HP projects" instead – but the study does not provide any details on the actual projects that were used. It also does not give reasons for the doubts or why the city's numbers allegedly cannot be trusted.

The study also fails to take into account the cost of implementing the Open Document Format (ODF) support in Microsoft Office and claims that ODF currently "is far from being a standard data format in Germany". The original reason for Munich's migration had been a decision by the city's council to switch Munich's IT systems to open standards and to ODF in order to reduce dependencies on individual software providers. However, Microsoft only introduced ODF support with Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2007 in 2009.

Generally, HP's report is not only critical of the City of Munich's numbers but also of its approach. Calculating an average migration speed of "just under 8 clients per day" over the LiMux project's 7-year lifetime, the author claims that "according to experience" a migration using Windows and the right provisioning software could have yielded migration results of 50 to 500 clients per day. Furthermore, HP's study includes support contracts for the Linux client software (in this case based on Canonical's support pricing), but the City of Munich did not pay for such contracts, neither for its Linux nor its Windows systems.

At the time of writing, the City of Munich has not responded to the details HP has published.

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