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Linux in Munich... Discuss here!

Will Munich fall apart? Or buy Windows XP at retail? Or am I missing the point? Why is Linux $2550 per desktop? How stupid ARE Munich's city counselors?

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Linux 'world' may believe in "free" things; but the suppliers sure as heck don't. The only ones laughing is the suppliers, supporters and those who get to migrate the existing software-base - and all the way to the bank at that.

Mickey Petersen
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Ther deal is for desktops, services and support over a number of years (~5 IIRC).  The winning vendor is a team of SuSE and IBM.  So $2500/desk for 5 years of IBM services actually sounds rather cheap.  The windows bid was actually cheaper...

Matt
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Why buy retail MS software? If they used custom applications they can probably rewrite them for Linux. And I doubt that a buerocratic office uses something which uniquely exists only on windows platform. This is a good move even from the PR standpoint.

By the way Ballmer certantly didn't think Munich would eventually bring more money through buying the retail copies.

Passater
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

MS was cheaper, after they dropped their price a lot.

According to the USA Today article (at: http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20030714/5320229s.htm )
Microsoft was offering a ton of incentives to get Munich to go with them. Accordign to the article: "Documents obtained by USA TODAY show Microsoft subsequently lowered its pricing to $31.9 million and then to $23.7 million -- an overall 35% price cut."

There were other reasons they didn't pick MS: "Though Microsoft underbid IBM and SuSE by $11.9 million in Munich, city officials were concerned about the unpredictable long-run cost of Microsoft upgrades, says Munich council member Christine Strobl, who championed the switch to Linux. And the more Microsoft discounted, the more it underscored the notion that as a sole supplier, Microsoft could -- and has been -- naming its own price, she says. "

It also looks like MS killed itself on this with thier new licensing policys:
"The opening salvo for the battle of Munich was fired from Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters. Last October, the company announced it would no longer support Windows NT server software, which is used by businesses to network groups of desktop PCs.

That meant Munich needed to do something about its Windows NT-based network of desktop PCs running Office 95 and 98. Microsoft wanted to upgrade the city to its newest products: Windows XP and Office XP."

RocketJeff
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

You can not believe how well organized the OSS political movement is in Europe. One can not attend any gathering in the context of European IT Strategy, or there is the obligatory speech by an OSS representative. OSS is soooo PC in Europe.
These city counselors or being severely misinformed by their staff. They are taken for a ride by IBM.
The real kicker for me is that the fuel that is stoking this OSS fire, is guess what ... pure Anti-Americanism, and yes, in software, it is Microsoft that is forced to hold the flag, while the likes of IBM and Sun are ROTFL.

Now don't forget that the OSS business model and bureaucracy where made for each other. Bureaucracy >loves< hidden costs, especially when they can be spent on more employees for the bureaucracy. That is why they are prepared to even take an upfront loss of over 10 million dollars. They do not have to tell this will >never< be recovered. They can spin a nice story about this being a "one-off" cost, and everything will be rosy and free from now on. Riggght. So IBM and Suse will do this period and then just fold their books and say "our work is done".

As for the "forced future Microsoft upgrade costs": what is the support lifecycle length of a MS OS now? 7 years are something? What is the lifecycle for a Linux Distro? Around 1 year?

As to how they plan to keep working: Let me guess: keep the current systems operational? Did all those apps just freeze the second that pen left the paper? I'm sure every time they get a nice new IBM PC it will be dual boot when necessary.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

So basically somebody wanted to buy Linux and they did eh?

B
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

So they can decide whether an upgrade is worth the benefit instead of deciding whether not upgrading is worth the cost of losing support for an obsoleted product?

Devil's Advocate
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"The article said Munich uses 175 custom Windows applications, all of which would need to be ported"

This is going to cost them a fortune. I mean, they have no idea how much it's going to cost - and I'll wager any guess will be an order of magnitude off.

Every little business rule, every "oh, we don't tax milk on Sundays because of church," every "no, the pre-VAT totals go in the footer - the VAT only goes on the cover page" will have to be rediscovered and that code written again.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"As for the "forced future Microsoft upgrade costs": what is the support lifecycle length of a MS OS now? 7 years are something? What is the lifecycle for a Linux Distro? Around 1 year?"

7 years? more like 4-5. MS planned on dropping Win98 support this year, but too many large customers balked. They had to extend NT 4 for the same reason.

The advantage of Linux is that you don't have to upgrade. You can keep using the same version as long as _you_ want. Try getting corporate licenses from MS for 98 or NT now - you either upgrade everything or have the support nightmare of having several different versions in the field.

RocketJeff
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I agree that there'll be large hidden costs, but I think Joel mistakes where they'll be (I'll ignore his suggestion that switching to Linux will be the downfall of Munich).  He suggests that there'll be, effectively, a stealth Windows implementation that will cost more than the Linux implementation because it's unofficial and ad-hoc.

First, as I understand the proposal, the 36 mil Munich is spending includes the cost of porting those 175 custom applications.

Where they need Quark, they'll purchase a special Windows machine, just like we had a special Mac machine for doing it in our all-windows shop until we switched that to PC a couple years ago; more likely, though, they'll find some places that just don't need Quark.  As for custom Access databases, they'll get ported by someone's nephew/neice, and the expense buried under the miscellaneous column, or they'll simply fall by the wayside in a re-evaluation.

In short, if it's implemented well (meaning by the mid-level managers), a lot of bureaucratic cruft will be rooted out.  If it's implemented badly, the hidden costs will be higher, but not destructive of the municipality.  This is also true of the MS upgrade that Ballmer pitched.

One of the VPs at my employer worked at Snap-On during their successful implementation of Baan, and he credited management with the success, insofar as they were willing to take a long, hard look at how the company was actually doing things, and alter it to fit the ERP they bought as needed.  If Munich does it right, they'll be better for the switch, irrespective of the virtues of Linux.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Oh yes. The oh so free world of OSS. I can't put it any better than Hans Reiser. Yes, the guy of ReiserFS fame:

"You do all understand that while the GPL doesn't permit tying by license, distros have now moved to using threats of invalidating support contracts to achieve the market leverage they need to exclude competitors, yes? By doing this they can exclude mainstream official kernels from being used, exclude rival filesystems, exclude whatever might lead to less customer lockin..... "

http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/06/18/1516239 way down in the answer to question 10.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"As for the "forced future Microsoft upgrade costs": what is the support lifecycle length of a MS OS now? 7 years are something? What is the lifecycle for a Linux Distro? Around 1 year?"

I was gonna make that argument, but read the USA Today article first:
"Agreed to let Munich go as long as six years, instead of the more normal three or four, without another expensive upgrade, a concession that runs against its bread-and-butter software upgrade strategy"

This was a MS Licensing scheme, not a retail purchase. But if Munich really cared about upgrade costs, they should've tried negotiating for a perpetual license. I'll bet by that point in the game MS was desperate not to lose Munich as a political issue, and would've caved. (Heck, the city would probably buy upgrades as a matter of course anyway).

I don't think MS ever had a chance of winning.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If Windows software will now be bought covertly for retail price, then its cost will not show up in IT's official TCO report for their Linux computers. Linux will probably not look more expensive, even if it is.

And I wish Munich luck porting their 175 custom applications to Linux!! Let us know when your porting is done. Maybe they will rewrite their apps from scratch! I know that is popular here at JOS.  ;-)

runtime
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I agree with the PR standpoint. The council can look good by supporting an Open Source platform and at the same time be seen cutting ties with a US business, a move that probably strengthens their political positions. When MS renegotiated their deal they weakened their position and I think some on the council saw them as manipulative, willing to bend the price to get their feet in the door then milk the "cash cow" later with restrictive licensing.

As for the excessive cost, well it is _government_ spending.. ;-)

We'll see how this experiment unfolds. Maybe it will mean great things for Linux on the desktop but I predict growing pains that would make even the most grizzled systems administrator want to beg for mercy. Admin 14,000 desktop linux machines? Not for those with weak hearts. It's not that linux itself will be hard to admin, it's the users expectations that's gonna climb up the spine and dwell. "I can't use Yahoo Messenger! Shizer!"

Early adopters make good lab rats...

Ian Stallings
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I think a lot of it has to do with sovereignty. Pretend you were in a once-powerful country.  You had a choice between open source software, or software from a company that bested you in a war 60 years ago, and economy ever since. What would you choose?

Yes, cost-wise munich may take it in the shorts. But I think the world economy will be better off when standard office applications move to a commodity. We can start spending our money on other things.

A lot of our apps our browser-based in the company. Someday it would be nice if they could remove the per-seat windows cost on the stations that use those apps.

Craven
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Also, I'm sure Munich was biased towards the IBM/SuSE deal because SuSE is a German company. I don't think that's so bad, promoting their own economy.

runtime
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Ballmer did mention this very same point, reported at the end of a Cnet article, where he promised that MS will be standing by as the switch inevitably hits snags.  I'd also imagine that the sales team made this clear to the Munich politicians as well.

I'd like to know how this breaks down as far as the German economy... part of a government's job is to plough money back into its region.  How much of that money would have stayed in Bayern had MS won, as opposed to now that IBM, Suse, etc. did?  Will it have a better chance of stimulating their economy?

"Linux companies" do need investment for that free software stack to save money in the long run.  Otherwise it's chicken/egg.  And Germans are biased towards long-term plans.  Plus, when do you finally decide to get off an upgrade treadmill?  Earlier or later?

Anyway, I think people forget Germany has the sort of bureaucracy Kafka wrote about.  They don't mind taking an extra four weeks on your visa whether the computer's kaputt or they just feel like it. ;)  But I don't think it will fall apart totally since they still rely enormously on paper, mail and the phone.

sammy
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Ok, I meant to say the Country that bested you in war, not company. Sorry for the revisionist history.

Craven
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I don't know how Munich does it, but with most Windows apps you can implement a bunch of Citrix terminal servers that run them. The Citrix client is available for Linux.

Guan Yang
Wednesday, July 16, 2003


I believe the problem discussed here involves the word "trunk."  I really, really loves Windows, but these last years Microsoft is behaving evil. I still have my Pentium II with an installation of Windows 98 dating 1999; never reinstalled, never reformatted. Now I'm told to expect my system to be "unsupported." Why? If I paid some bucks for a piece of software that included support, why I'm forced to pay again?

Now, I realize that's the way the market works, but I don't like when a BigCo that earns more money in one day that my entire country in a month just change the rules. I'm so against that; I feel powerless, and small. It's a big psychological threat.

So, what's the alternative? Download a Linux distro from the net, and you are all set. If you need support, you buy it. Simple.

I'm not sure about the long term economics, but it's really refreshing to know that if you have a system and don't broke it, you can let it running for years. I actually saw a 286 machine running linux acting as a firewall a couple of months ago. It was replaced now, but because a hardware failure.

(Of course, I'm not ready to change my desktop to Linux yet :-)

Leonardo Herrera
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The report the decision was based on is publicly available under http://www.muenchen.de/aktuell/clientstudie_kurz.pdf (be warned it's in German only)

The study shows that Microsoft is actually the best option from a pure ROI point of view. Linux was choosen only because of political reasons. The city council of Munich is dominated by social democrats and environmentalists who believe that Microsoft is evil and OSS is good. It was those politicians who made the decision, while the IT and domain experts in the administration strongly disagree and warn about this move.
In the end, it's a gold mine for IBM. Your printer doesn't have Linux driver? Buy from IBM. Can't longer use MS Access databases? Buy DB/2.  Server hardware, training, support, custom development...
Also this is seen as a landmark decision, other city and state administrations are expected to follow suit...

Manny
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

So this is what Slashdot would look like if it were pro-Windows.  Interesting.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I'm trying to avoid the advocacy and politics, and understand if I'm missing something here about the true implications of giving everyone Linux desktops.

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Suse is a German company in need of contracts. Since the integrated european market doesn't permit direct subsidies anymore, it's a nice indirect way to do it.

From a political standpoint, this makes perfect sense. The Munich politicians protect local workforce, instead of sending money on the other side of the Atlantic. Voters like that a lot, especially in old continental Europe (I'm French)

It doesn't make a lot economical or technical sense, but this is politics. I think it's a waste of time, Joel.

lionel
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"I'm trying to avoid the advocacy and politics, and understand if I'm missing something here about the true implications of giving everyone Linux desktops." [Joel]

It's virtually impossible to discuss the implications of this without knowing the technical details of IBM's/SUSE's proposal.  They might have a good plan, they might have a lousy plan; the implementation might go well, the implementation might cause Munich to sink into the sea.

The point is that the implications of the switch depend far more on what actually happens over the next few years than on any shallow windows/linux, MS/OSS dichotomy.  Most especially, they depend far more on the people involved than on the software chosen--good projects can be sabotaged by bureaucratic spite, bad projects can succeed with the right people.  No matter how the implementation goes, it says very little about either Microsoft or Linux, no matter what developers think.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

175 (major) custom applications, presumably almost all written in VB, and they expect to move to Linux?

Someone's going to make a mint cleaning this mess up.

Dave Rothgery
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

In fact, there is a Quark equivalent for Linux, Scribus: http://web2.altmuehlnet.de/fschmid/

It just recently reached version 1.0. And they do not have a marketing-driven release scheme where "The 2.0 release is intended to be a 'polishing' of 1.0" or something.

Nik
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"I'm trying to avoid the advocacy and politics, and understand if I'm missing something here about the true implications of giving everyone Linux desktops. " - Joel

I think you're missing Citrix.  They may be missing it as well, but they will discover it for the reasons you gave.

Citrix could bridge the transition from ridiculously painful to only painful.

And by your logic, everyone is locked in, forever.  Period.  I don't think that's realistic or acceptable.

It will only cost  _more_ if you wait longer.  Right?

Robert
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Leonardo, I don't buy it.  First of all, nobody is forcing you to upgrade your computer from Windows 98.  Tons of people still run it.  Even after they officially drop support for it that doesn't mean you have to upgrade.  It's slightly different for corporate licenses since (I believe) they usually have to renew them and MS might not allow them to, but for personal use the argument holds no water.

Secondly, do you really think you'd be able to get support for a 5+ year old kernel from the vaunted Linux support community?  I doubt you'd have much more luck doing so than getting support for Windows98 after it is dropped.

As for this deal, I don't really know the details, but it is interesting to see Linux getting more widespread adoption.  Regardless of your political leanings, the added competition is definitely a good thing to see

Mike McNertney
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If the DotNet Framework folks or Java folks wrote QuarkXpress, and intended for it to be completely broken down into published and sharable components, how would they do it? There's a macro library for all three flag ship DTP products from Quark and Adobe but I don't think you can just reuse any components. What a waste.

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

in the 90ies there was always a reason for upgrading a pc -
nowadays the platform is sort of static, i think that that's
the _real_ reason why so many programmers are unemployed.

rewriting 175 applications creates some jobs (The German
word for this is Arbeitsbeschaffungsmassname ;-)

Maybe thats the wave of the future.

Michael Moser
Wednesday, July 16, 2003


... do they really have to rewrite those applications?
I thought linux has some sort of windows user mode emulation layer called wine.
(shouldn't be too hard to port kernel32.dll user32.dll and gdi32.dll - enough for most applications).

Michael Moser
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"... do they really have to rewrite those applications?"

No.  At least not before they can go to Linux desktops.

"I thought linux has some sort of windows user mode emulation layer called wine."

It does, but wine is nowhere near ready for real deployment.  It is a buggy mess.

Citrix, on the other hand, basically solves the problem.

Robert
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I wonder if the thing people are missing out on here is the involvement of IBM. I think it possible that IBM/Suse is planning on doing the things that the Linux community won't, like supporting 5 yr old kernels and porting applications. I can certainly see it being to IBM's advantage to have Linux ports of all the apps that Munich needs, especially if they can persuade Munich to pay for a large fraction of the costs.

David Clayworth
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Joel, and several others are missing the point.  The long term TCO is not the same as MS and even Balmer admits that.  As he put it, how can MS ever be as low as Linux? 

Each day more people learn Linux.  Those that know UNIX have a near zero learning curve.  Those that only  know windows, have more.  So the support costs continue to decline.  Like it or not, the TCO curves are in different directions on this. 

So why did they choose now?  MS offered them a sweet deal.  But it was a sweet deal on the short end.    Like a good outsoucer, MS pushed the price to the back end of the contract.  While the city could buy now at a discount, they would be very_ hard pressed to do so again.  So they took a long term view.  As for the dollar amounts, over the life of the contract, it is not much more.  So the reasoning is the same as leasing versus buying.  Sometimes its economics, sometimes its more. 

To imply that because they selected a more expensive option it is wrong, is over simplistic.  Consider a  Laser printer versus InkJet.  A laser is more expensive, so everyone should have inkjets.  But we don't, because the initial purchase price is only one component.  So while a laser costs more to purchase, other factors bring down it's long term cost.   

Munich like everyone is looking at long term costs.  They have to.  Budgets are low and they need to cut costs where they can.  To be free of recurring licenses is one method.  Good or bad depends on the situation. 

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

chrike joel, so pessimistic.

that said, i wonder just exactly whose pocket the ~$2500 is going into...  maybe its the cost of porting their applications (pfft).

-nmr

nathan
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Mike, where did you get the information that  the TCO for Linux is lower than for Windows on the log run?
From my past experiences it appears to be just the opposit - Linux is "free" at first, but you need a lot more manpower to manage a big network than with windows.  Not to mention the "my yahoo messenger doesn't work" kind of user complaint.

Not my real name
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Leonardo - if you're on Linux and ask for help, often the first reply is "well, get the latest kernel."

"But 2.4.[x] doesn't support my [unique hardware] any more"

(and this is the part I love)
"But that's the beauty of open source - just hack the kernel to add support for your hardware!"

Yes, you too can be in the business of writing device drivers.... [grin]

[broken record]
Linux makes an awesome server, especially for mainstream and network applications. Until the linux community gets off its high horse and recognizes that most desktop users need to be led to water, handed a glass, and have their heads tilted back before they'll drink, linux does not belong on the desktop.
[/broken record]

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

. . . but isn't one of the ways that Linux will make the move to be a successful desktop platform is for someone to take a risk on it, somehow make it work and raise it's profile.

Sometimes decisions need to be made which make the long term better for all of us and it's hard to argue that increased competition in the desktop OS world is a bad thing.

I'm sure they're not acting in the long term social interest of us all but that may end up being the result.  *Sometimes* you can discuss short term difficulties, costs and stupidity until the cows come home - but lets look at the bigger picture.

So I say Bravo!

Yanwoo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If you really need to run proprietary Windows applications under Linux, you can use VMWare to do it. You also need to tell your software vendors that they should port those applications to Linux, so the next poor klutz that comes along doesn't have the same problem.

I'm sure that SuSE will be able to adequately answer these kinds of questions for the city.

The real problem is not really proprietary programs, it's proprietary data formats. Which is why you have to use Access and all those other proprietary tools in the first place.

Mike Burton
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Philo - that's why there's commercial distros that you can buy that come with support.

Next question...
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"Not to mention the "my yahoo messenger doesn't work" kind of user complaint'

Just ask the user if this is their virus infected russian porn servring home user windows pc or if it is a business pc that has operable programs that allow you to get your work done. 

Helmut
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

A quick look at clientstudie_kurz.pdf shows they've been taking migration seriously, assuming some long timeframe using vmware or terminal services.  There are 5 plans (xp+msoffice, xp+openoffice, linux, linux+vmware, linux+terminalservices), and I assume from the EUR2550/seat figure they picked linux+vmware.

Manny, where did you get the impression the study was completely in favor of Microsoft?  And Joel, the cost for XP would have been EUR2410/seat, ignoring that last minute Ballmer stunt.  So why is the EUR2550 figure so outlandish when obviously migration's gonna be a bitch?

Hope vmware's as good as you say...

sammy
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If they get VMWare they still gotta buy a copy of Windows to run inside it!

I agree that the Microsoft price seemed just as outlandish as the Linux price. I wasn't considering all the things they call "support," whatever that means. It's very interesting that Linux appears to have no real price advantage since that's one of the most common arguments in favor of switching.

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

To make things clear:
No contract has been made yet, only a strategic decision to require linux in future biddings to upgrade Munichs IT infrastructure.
Even Microsoft can participate, offering Linux shouldn't be too hard.
Those "175 custom Windows applications" need to be ported anyways either to XP or Linux (most of them being frontends to mainframes or even old dos applications)

El Macho
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Even with VMWare you have to buy the licenses of the MS products that run on it.

billm
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I think Munich is doing what they need to do. There's no compelling reason why you need to be forced by only one software vendor. You can keep your old windows OS and windows application on some machine and gradually replace them with more portable solution, like web application, Java applications, XML data, ... I do believe IBM and Linux vendors will figure out a way to accomplish it. Maybe it's a pain for awhile, but Munich will get the freedom they want -- no more threatening from a single vendor.

Just me
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I'm happy I don't live in Munich. What an incredible waste of resources.

Frederik Slijkerman
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"Even with VMWare you have to buy the licenses of the MS products that run on it. "

Or use the ones that you already have.  The point is that they can overlap in a reasonable way.  Whether or not they can get that far before current licenses expire is another question.

Robert
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"Linux is "free" at first, but you need a lot more manpower to manage a big network than with windows. "

Linux is not free to the commercial user and Windows costs more than a license.  You must have support, whether it be the price per incident or on-site, both cost money.  My comment was in reference to the idea that a Linux admin costs so much more than a Windows admin.  Three years ago, that may have been true.  Today, the numbers are just not there.  Today, I can get them both for about the same cost.  Better, I can get a combination for 8-15% of a single OS admin. 

As for needing more manpower, it just ain't so.  I cannot say I need fewer, but I do not need more.  So that makes the cost Licensing and support.    With the price of support going down, and the price of licensing always going up, that is why I said the curve is going in favor of Linux.

http://www.cioupdate.com/article.php/10493_1477911
http://www.computeruser.com/articles/daily/8,6,1,1209,02.html
http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/it_res/article.php/1553431
http://www.zdnet.com.au/itmanager/technology/story/0,2000029587,20270376,00.htm

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

IBM is not a monopoly.  Microsoft is.  Yet many here distrust IBM.  That makes sense.  Oh, wait many of you have your head up Microsoft's back oriface.

Helmut
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Did Joel really start a Windows/Linux flame war ;)

If you can read German, do read the report mentioned above. It's quite interesting.

A couple of answers and a very short and incomplete summary:
For both MS and OSS the major part of the costs is training ($25 million for OSS; $16 million for MS). Conversion, hardware upgrades and overhead take up the rest.

Licenses are about a bit over 2 million for both OSS and MS. For OSS a combination of Linux, Open Office and VMWare is found the cheapest. To soften the migration 80% of all computers will run VMWare for 4 to 5 years.

The report does not say this but, looking at the OSS license costs it seems the Windows licenses are included in the OSS solution. For MS you have to pay for WindowsXP, OfficeXP. For OSS you have to pay for SUSE, VMWare and WindowsXP.

The recommendation says that from a technical and short term economical point of view Windows XP with Office XP should be selected. However, from a strategical/quality point of view OSS is preferred. Especially the dependence on a single vendor is seen as a negative point for the MS solution.

Jan Derk
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Jan Derk:
"Licenses are about a bit over 2 million for both OSS and MS. For OSS a combination of Linux, Open Office and VMWare is found the cheapest. To soften the migration 80% of all computers will run VMWare for 4 to 5 years.

The report does not say this but, looking at the OSS license costs it seems the Windows licenses are included in the OSS solution. For MS you have to pay for WindowsXP, OfficeXP. For OSS you have to pay for SUSE, VMWare and WindowsXP. "

Well, like Joel said above, to use Windows in VMWare requires licenses; so, if they reuse the ones they have, they would end up with the same problem they had before: Lack of support from MS.

Mickey Petersen
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Joel, this is definitely the most caustic post you ever wrote. Were you paid by MS to write this?
Were you paid by MS to influence your audience through your columns?

RP
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I was incomplete the $2 million I mentioned were only the initial license costs.  For the years after (2004-2007) additional licenses cost $8.6 million for MS (WindowsXP/OfficeXP) and $1.7 for OSS (VMWare).

I should really start selling software by a subscription model and take reading lessons.

Jan Derk
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

RP- I thought Joel's post was very pragmatic.  I'm no MS lover, but I recognized the pragmatic benefits they offer:


Does NO ONE remember what a MESS desktop commercial software development was 20 years ago??? 

Do you write your new game for C-64, TI99/4A, TS1000, Apple IIE, Dos???

I was just writing programs for my own use back then, but I couldn't imagine actually DISTRIBUTING software back then.

The benefit of being able to write ONCE and run on 90% of desktop computers is HUGE.

Entrepreneur
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If I remember rightly other than glass teletype interfaces into the backend systems, housing administration, finance and payroll and so on a great many of the applications Munich has to have converted at some point are spreadsheet models.

This is non-trivial in OpenOffice but its not overly complicated either.  Munich has a tradition of small software development companies (as well as taxi drivers in smelly liederhosen), which would eat this kind of work if they have the opportunity to bid for it.

In the end though this is a political decision, which is what politicians are for.  Given the less than stellar performance of large scale developments in UK Government and Agency systems over the past couple of years having the desktop in Linux, with or without Citrix doesn't seem that big a deal anymore.

If it works, or it works at least as well as anchoring yourself to Version 6 licencing and XP et al, then Microsoft will have the first significant platform competition on PCs, ever.

That would not be a bad result for anyone.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I am now thinking that the German Edition of CityDesk for Linux just might not happen after all.

AIDA ...

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I can't believe the spite I'm reading here. "Anti-Americanism" -- you can't be serious. Until now I thought this forum had mainly intelligent and informed posters.

According to the study, the main applications they currently use are MS Office, internet browser software, calendar software, and clients for novell networks and bs2000 (which apparently is a mainframe OS by Fujitsu-Siemens). About 50% of their applications are in some form connected to MS Office. They didn't mention any other (custom) software.

It's a huge project. But, as others have noted, we don't know the people behind it or their awareness of problems to come.

Instead of cultivating your fear of wrong business decisions I advise you to hold your breath and watch. What most of you wrote here is nothing but semi-informed FUD.

Martin Dittus
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"This is going to cost them a fortune. I mean, they have no idea how much it's going to cost - and I'll wager any guess will be an order of magnitude off.

Every little business rule, every "oh, we don't tax milk on Sundays because of church," every "no, the pre-VAT totals go in the footer - the VAT only goes on the cover page" will have to be rediscovered and that code written again."


Philo, my gues is they will try runningsome of the existing apps on WINE

Daniel Shchyokin
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

IBM is going to make this work. Just to spite MS if nothing else. And if suse isnt a good desktop OS today I bet it will be in 5 years.
I for one welcome the reign of our new masters.

Eric DeBois
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Seems as good a time as any to post this one again:

http://www.ubergeek.tv/switchlinux/

"Switch to Linux".

ABC ...

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

If they've already got a Windows Machine running Quark for their reports, then they don't need to make an investment. They can stick with Windows 98 and Quark 3 until either a suitable replacement is found or the gov't no longer needs that report.

This is a common solution for many governments: keep that antiquated machine in the corner so long as they need to do X. Space is cheap since they don't pay property taxes. After a while, antiquated equipment actually becomes 'character and atmosphere.'

John Milan
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I happen to live in Germany, and actually I work as a software developer here. It's quite funny to see some 60+ posts dealing with rational reasons which might have driven Munich to switch to Linux.

The point is, and it's that simple: leftist, pseudo-anti-imperialist, semi-anti-american attitude. It's everywhere wherever you talk to some guy who has to decide whether to choose between "free software" or "eternal M$-slavery". Blinded by their wannabe-ideology, they happily run into the arms of IBM.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Joel,

What you say is true, but that's the whole point. I also don't think any American is qualified to comment on this because they simply don't understand Germany.

Germany is maybe the most politically correct country in the world has a totally different mentality than the throw-away consumerism of the USA.

eg. Recycling. Every bottle or can in the supermarket has a large deposit carged on it to *force* you to take it back for re-use. Note that I said re-use, not recycle. Those big plastic cola bottles are made of thick plastic and are refilled instead of being thrown away. Anything which isn't reused carries a premium price ticket. There's no styrofoam boxes in McDonalds. If you order a pizza by 'phone they don't even give it to you in a cardboard box, the pizza boy brings it in a metal box and will put it on a plate in your house (you supply the plate).

All this costs extra but the Germans are willing to pay. They take a long term view that the planet is priceless.

In this light, and given that anti-American feeling is now rife thanks to Mr. Bush, then no price is too high to remove government dependence on Microsoft.

You're right that this will cost money and growing pains but that's not the point because this isn't about money.
The whole point of this is to remove the dependency on "custom" databases and file format lock-ins, to force people to find open alternatives to the programs they use for their daily work.

Munich will make this thing work, you can bet on that, and price isn't an issue. Germany feels it must take a stand against Micorosoft for the sake humanity. FWIW, I agree with them. This monopoly has gone far enough with it's 85% markups and stranglehold on the global market.

Joe Cuervo
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

> If you order a pizza by 'phone they don't even give it to you
> in a cardboard box, the pizza boy brings it in a metal box
> and will put it on a plate in your house (you supply the plate).

Ahem. Really good and important posting, but now you're taking it a bit far ;)

I've _never_ seen something like that in any German city. Trust me, we too use cardboard.

Martin Dittus
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"I'm happy I don't live in Munich. What an incredible waste of resources."

At what point do waste of resources change into "incredible" waste of resources?  I bet any government spending can be classified by at least one person in the world as "incredible" waste.

Government does not see revenue / expenses / profit like the private sector.  Government only has tax revenue, and must spend it all.  In other words, that "incredible waste of resources" was going to be an "incredible waste of resources" regardless of the solution.

I worked for 3 years on a "custom" application for the Pentagon that cost them over a million dollars.  There was no "off the shelf" software that did everything they wanted, which was the justification for the project.  Of course, there were some reasonably close packages that could be had for less than $50,000, but that would have required workflow changes which alone might have cost over a million dollars just to design, approve, and monitor.

Government doesn't have profit/loss motivation.  They simply have budgets that must be spent (or they lose that money in the next budget).  If a German city government budget is spent supporting a German company and uses local Linux programming talent then it would be concievable for the Munich government to see it as a good way to spend that budget.

For people here who are trying to defend Windows against the onslaught of the Linux barbarian hordes, you need to start worrying when the private sector (with profit/loss motivation) starts making this kind of switch.  Then you can be like the hapless Macintosh supporters who only have arguments like "it's just better" or "it's more aesthetically pleasing" instead of market winning arguments like "it's cheaper".

Van Gale
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Maybe a foreign government doesn't want its
software to have trap doors for the CIA and NSA?

valraven
Wednesday, July 16, 2003

"instead of market winning arguments like "it's cheaper".

The market seems to be moving in a surprising direction. This report http://www.internet.com/corporate/releases/03.07.15-msoftmonitor.html by Jupiter Research seems to show that 9% of SMB are using Linux on the desktop.

The challenge for Microsoft is of course (re)converting the heretics. Once somebody has seen that OSS works for them, it is very hard to convince them to shell out hard-earned $/EUR for something that performs more or less the same tasks.

I don't know if this should be taken seriously, but it sure makes good press for OSS.

Jeroen
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Switching to Linux will not really be a problem, word processors and databases are readily available. Smart people are out there.
It's the thin end of the wedge really and was inevitable.

Personally I hope everybody else starts doing it too, this will be a great source of development work and who will mind a bit of variety?

Realist
Thursday, July 17, 2003

In fact it's not OSS but open file formats what matters. I don't want to be left with a closed format that only MS software can read and be left without being able to access my own data.
Probably all efforts should go into MS adopting OFF like standard XML or at least fully open and document their own formats.

And about OSS, I only know that if my goverment was to keep sensible data about me inside an application I cannot trust, I wouldn't be comfortable.

So, in the end, it's not just money.

Ros
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Joel,

Linux can make sense, but only if you embrace the one overriding feature that unites most systems... save your documents as HTML.

One smart IT Manager here in the UK got his organisation to save *as much as possible* as html formatted documents, and has had in place that policy for the last four years.

That decision will save his organisation more money than any desktop OS switch ever will.

Raddy Echt
Thursday, July 17, 2003

There's another point which hasn't been raised here - Germany has had good experiences in public sector projects stimulating private economy. I wouldn't be surprised if they are looking at it partly this way. If Munich can stimulate its Laptop & Lederhosen economy by paying Munich based companies to rewrite those apps for which no Linux equivalent exist then they will do so, not only because it makes social sense but also because it makes economic sense (the local government can get back some of what is spends on the projects from the taxes on the profits the companies make, the income from their employees, etc. etc.)


Thursday, July 17, 2003

I am a system administrator on Win*, *Linux and OSX.  I think I well know their respective strength and weaknesses. The idea that one solution is superiour to another is nothing but ignorance.

First let me say that it saddens me to see so much fanboyisms here. Just because you bet your business on Microsoft doesn't mean you should try to hurt everyone else, that will only earn you a bad name. There will be lots of Microsoft desktops around to make money on in the future, just as there is plenty of Linux and Mac desktops today.

Linux actually makes a lot of sense on the desktop. Linux is different from Win* and Mac because it is a commodity. It is a common product for many different systems. There has been this sort of cooperations before, but never on the desktop and never as a decentralised organisation.

Locking your data in proprietary formats has NEVER been a good idea. It's not the software licenses that matters but how hard it will be to access this information in the future. This is especially true for government agencies.

I have approximately the same amount of training on Win* and *NIX (both on desktops and servers) and I am absolutely sure that the latter requires a lot less work to maintain. Within large corporations you really can't trust no matter how talented individuals. You need routines and central management to scale an organisation.

So those workers with the urge for special software are not trusted to install their own software, which makes perfect business sense. They request it from their admins. So, in this environment what operating system your desktops use doesn't matter because you resort to terminal solutions anyway. Which also makes perfect business sense. So all those apps probably only gets ported when appropriate for other reasons.

Jonas B.
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ros, Jonas B. You are right: Proprietry data formats are the real reason. They can switch now and know that they can switch from an open format back to a closed one if they need to, or they can stay in a closed format for now, and wonder if they will be able to afford to get out later if they need to. Strategically it all makes sense.

Regards,

treefrog
Thursday, July 17, 2003

According to this old Infoworld article http://www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayNew.pl?/odonnell/970908od.htm the fileformats for the 97 versions (that Munich are using) are (were?) available.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I think most people just want to line up the programmers to the wall and have them shot. There are few industries left in the world where lock-in causes end customers so much problems.

Anonymous
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Well if this thread proves one thing it's this: Everyone is biased in some form or fashion and "rational discussion" in this industry (and most likely any other) will always be tainted by politics of some sort.

The technical implications of such a drastic change are too immense to ponder at this time IMO without inside knowledge. Maybe after a few years we can get an accurate view of what's required to make such a change and do a post-mortem of sorts to determine what went right and what went wrong. I'm kind of glad a government is playing the guinea pig though, so we can get some hard data on real world roll outs of desktop Linux and their implications. Maybe it will remove some of the FUD coming from all directions.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, July 17, 2003

The file formats for Office '97 are available - but have you ever looked at them?  Besides a lot of Microsoft/Windows specific stuff (that can be emulated, but not easily), the formats suffer from a lot of bloat/complexity (this is my experience with Word, I'm not sure of the other parts of Office)

This is the major problem the people doing other word processors have with reading Word files - not so much with getting the formats, but trying to deal with the mess.

RocketJeff
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Windows bigots, CALM down.

A convicted monopolist lost one contract for some desktops and you people think you see the four horsemen coming

Mike
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"Not for those with weak hearts. It's not that linux itself will be hard to admin, it's the users expectations that's gonna climb up the spine and dwell. 'I can't use Yahoo Messenger! Shizer!'"

I don't get it, why wouldn't they be able to use Yahoo Messenger?

Like many non-Microsoft applications, it's available in a Linux version. There is a kind of Microsoft tunnel-vision you get when you only use Microsoft-based products, I know this, I suffered from it myself.

Nate Silva
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Hmm bad example. My point.. using windows based products on a linux platform is not always going to be an easy affair. I run suse at home and find plenty of ways to run windows apps or their linux equal (which the number of is growing). But some are not so equal and are a PITA to work around.

I just wanted to calrify what I meant:
a. It will take some ajustment by the users
b. Some will complain

If the situation was reversed, switching from linux to windows, it would be exactly the same.

I'm sure Linux zealots will come out listing every app known to man on linux so for the record I don't care. Don't waste your time on converting me. I loathe all computers, all software, and all hardware. I don't discriminate.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I hear you Ian.  Some of the Linux equivalents of Windows programs are good.  Others are like black cookies instead of Oreo's

Mike
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I thought Delphi was really popular in Europe.  If alot of those "175 Custom Applications" were written in Delphi, then they'll be easy to port.

Richard Ponton
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"using windows based products on a linux platform is not always going to be an easy affair. " [Ian]

Using Windows based products on a Windows platform is not always going to be an easy affair.  Sure, people will complain.  People will always complain, no matter what you do. 

To repeat my point: the technology involved will matter less in the success or failure of this project than the ability of middle management and the project leaders to manage the transition.

Justin Johnson
Thursday, July 17, 2003

35 years ago, ALL business applications ran only on big iron.  Thousands of business applications, each tied to a specific big iron machine.
As more and more people ran "toy" applications like VisiCalc, it made sense to write "real" business applications for PCs.  Fast forward to today, and Wintel has tens of thousands of business applications you will find no where else.  The computer has become a commodity.
Munich was an early Linux desktop adopter for political correctness, but slowly a market for real business applications on Linux will form.  It will probably take less than 35 years to rewrite all those applications for Linux (employing thousands of Indian coders).
At some point the OS, the GUI desktop, and the basic set of Office applications will become a commodity, just as the PC hardware did.  With good diet and exercise, I will live to see this change too.

Manuel M. Garcia
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Dear Joel et al,
                        I think many Americans fail to realize the very strong fears there are in Europe about the US. A leading political commentator was surprised to find that the US was considered to be the greatest threat to world peace in HOLLAND. This horrified him, but he hasn't got through to your government yet.

                          Secondly there is a feeling outside the US that MS tie-in will not be stopped by the US government, which has basically been bought out.

                          I tend to think that even if Lunux cost ten times Windows it would be cheap at the price.

                          And can we keep completely separate the issues of the quality of MS software and the company's business practises.

Stephen Jones
Friday, July 18, 2003

I agree with Holland.


Friday, July 18, 2003

Smoke the amount of dope that Holland does and you'll be very agreeable

Mike
Friday, July 18, 2003

Munich will be interesting as the first of many examples of what happens when OSS philosophies are embraced in ways that affect large populations of end users (as opposed to technical people or sys admins.)

Local government has distinct specialist needs for software. OSS will not deliver well on that. Further, as the developers among us know, porting more than a hundred applications will uncover enormous unexpected problems.

I think Munich is about to go down in history as a district with difficult programs, mistakes in administration, massive cost blow-outs to a clever American company (IBM), and some of the most creative reasons ever seen for executives and engineers to retain Windows on their notebooks, desktops and other equipment.

.
Friday, July 18, 2003

Why IBM, anyway? I've seen a lot of quality software and work from Europe - aren't there any European firms that could've competed on this?

I hate to say it, but I'd find Munich's decision a LOT more credible if the linux implementation had been bid by a German or EU firm...

Philo

Philo
Friday, July 18, 2003

Philo, IBM has European branches, and they partnered with Suse, a German Linux company (and one of the few distros to be widely accepted).

Justin Johnson
Friday, July 18, 2003

Microsoft has European branches too.
No "headquartered in Europe" type European companies that could've handled the job? (not a troll - sincerely curious)

Philo

Philo
Friday, July 18, 2003

Microsoft likes to deal direct with governement and large organization. IBM only wants to sell their Global Services outsourcing since then that brings in hardware, support and so on as recurring revenues. It also brings experience they can use to help other German local governements move to Linux and build a nice momentum. Beside IBM is the only company putting Billion$ into Linux (and reaping much more then that in deployments and services...)

Alex
Sunday, July 20, 2003

"No 'headquartered in Europe' type European companies that could've handled the job?" [Philo]

Yes, Suse, a Linux company based in Germany.  A German company that dominates the European Linux market.

Given how often you've missed or ignored references to Suse, is there some reason you don't consider them to fill the role you're asking about?

Justin Johnson
Monday, July 21, 2003

Funny about the Eupropean Microsoft divisions. I have often dealt with IBM X, where X is a European country of your choice. I have never dealt with Microsoft X, nor have I met them in any tenders.

BTW. As far as big business is concerned, Linux -> IBM.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

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