Munich throws out the Linux penguin

Open source operating system

Munich throws out the Linux penguin

Migrating from MS Windows to Linux took Munich ten years for only three years of really using Linux. Now the flagship project of the city of Munich is about to be abandoned.

Free open source software at the workplaces of the Munich administration comes to an end: after a long implementation period of ten years and only three years of practical experience with the Linux operating system, the city is now once again to return to Microsoft programs.

On Wednesday, SPD and CSU have submitted the request to the city council “to use city-wide uniform market standard products” based on MS Windows. Since both parties represent a clear majority, this means the end to “LiMux” at 20,000 urban desks. This is a showcase of free software failed.

Engineers and System Administrators have invested a lot of energy in “LiMux” according to stakeholders. For an easy operation, they have combined the open source operating system with parts of the projects Ubuntu and KDE to fit it to the needs of the public administration.

The project teams have built bridges between the Microsoft Office world and the open source Libre Office with its applications for word processing, spreadsheets and other. And they have paid a lot of attention to the “egg laying wool milk pig WollMux” (German expression for a solution trying to include everything and often more than it should with functional overload), a collection of document templates, letterheads, forms and text blocks developed for “LiMux”. But despite of all these efforts, the judgment of the city government turned out negative.

Mayor speaks of high effort

“A uniform and complete migration to Linux has never been possible because many very specific technical applications still require Windows”, says Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD). As a result “both the citizens and the users suffer” from high cost and the lack of uniformity of software equipment at the workplace.

Now, the strategic objective is to make “the urban applications for the citizens, as well as for the urban employees work optimally”. This was already a target along with the decision for “LiMux”, decided in 2003 with the majority of the SPD and The Green Party.

Peter Ganten (chairman of the Board of Management of Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA)) calls it a more or less crucial error to connect the introduction of “LiMux” with a reorganization of the entire IT infrastructure in the Munich administration.

Prior to the centralization each department had its own IT unit, easily accessible for the employees of the same department. When centralization started, all typical difficulties going along with such a change were blamed on the introduction of Linux, says Ganten.

Linux relevant especially in cloud services

The importance of the open-source operating system never rested in the desktop computers in the first place. Linux mainly operates computers that handle large databases and web applications. And this trend has further developed with cloud services, says Open Source Association leader Ganten. “The architecture for cloud-based applications is almost always an open-source infrastructure.” Ganten names large providers such as Google, Amazon or 1&1.

“Unfortunately, public administration in Germany lags far behind”, criticizes Ganten. Some cities pay high amounts to Microsoft for maintaining outdated Windows-XP installations. In other countries such as France the administration appreciates open source software especially because of its trustworthiness in dealing with public data.

After the Linux exit in Munich, Schwaebisch Hall is one of the best known (small) municipalities to stick to Linux. “The city administration can fulfill all tasks with Linux” says the IT department director Horst Braeuner. “All applications work in the workplace.” In some exceptional cases MS Windows runs in a virtual environment. The exchange of data with external communication partners is working properly.

Bridging gaps 

For Microsoft, the new Munich way is welcome. “We are glad to be a partner of the city, when it comes down to it”, according to a spokesman for the German headquarters in Munich. “We as platform provider are no longer the same as 2003.” Linux has a permanent place in the cloud data centers of Microsoft.

The German association of towns and cities attaches no major importance to the question of the operating system at workplaces of the municipal administration. “In future, more and more applications will be cloud offerings” says a spokesperson. “The question as to which operating system is used, ultimately will lose importance.”

“Now dividing belongs to the past, we are open for all systems and focused on the benefits for the user.” In 2001, the then Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer still defamed Linux as “cancer”. His successor Satya Nadella, however finds laudatory words for the free operating system.

Originally published in German language “München schmeißt den Pinguin raus” by © SPIEGEL ONLINE 2017
Munich cancels linux‐experiment(Note: link is correct, but sometimes not valid, just enter the german title into the search field on SPIEGEL ONLINE) 


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