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What Munich’s Microsoft-to-Linux project was really about
You may remember one early from-windows-to-linux migration story of Munich City in 2003. Some interesting details are emerging from the project (it’s a long one)
the driving force was not costs, it was independence from one supplier. In 03 they were “happily” (they’re germans) running NT4 when MS announced its end-of-life, which forced the City to make a change it didn’t want. The estimated cost for using linux, including training, was actually 5% higher than microsoft

You may remember the early Windows-to-Linux migration story of the City of Munich City in 2003. Some interesting details are emerging from the project (it’s a long one). The key point is that “it’s all about managing change for and with people”.

  • The motivation to switch from Windows was not costs, it was independence from a single supplier. In 03 Munich was using Windows NT4 and was satisfied with it (they’re Germans) when MS announced the end of support for NT4. Being forced to make a change it didn’t want irked Munich so it looked for a way to get independence from software suppliers. The estimated cost for using Linux, including training, was actually 5% higher than the Microsoft upgrade, but deemed worth freedom.
  • Users were moved to the new open-source applications on Windows before moving to Linux. This two-phase approach flattened the learning curve for users and made the project more manageable. The key applications were Thunderbird (email), Firefox (browser), OpenOffice (docs).
  • They took the opportunity to clean up their document templates and develop a new application to manage them properly (and make mail merges easier). During the project, they found 13,700 document templates, almost one for each of 14,000 users, thanks to a ridiculously decentralised IT infrastructure. Germanic thoroughness to an extreme.
  • The migration is very gradual. Less critical departments moved first, and within every department a small ‘germ cell’ of users was moved ahead of the rest to reveal problems and build local champions for the new technologies. From a 2003 start, by 2012 they aim to have 80% of users on Linux.
  • Each department has a Windows PC to deal with tricky Office documents that don’t work well in OpenOffice.

Hat tip: SlashDot.