Local government officials in Munich have finally approved a plan for rolling out Linux and other open source applications, in place of Windows, in more than 14,000 city administration computers.
"The Munich city council reached a decision to go ahead with a plan that had been developed over the past year by the city's own IT department, in co-operation with other external experts," said city administration spokesman Bernd Plank. The council decided, however, not to publish details of the migration plan.
The decision by the city to move to Linux received widespread attention last year, especially after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer flew to the German city specifically to persuade it to stick with Windows. He offered a special deal in order to remove the PR potential for Linux advocates but lost the gamble and saw other European cities state their intention to review the open-source OS.
Since then, however, Munich has been far from the ideal poster boy for Linux. Lengthy discussions and arguments have delayed the move and even with a plan finally decided upon, after 12 months, the decision not to publish it has left some observers sceptical that the Linux revolution may not be all the city council has portrayed it as being.
The Munich city government will begin issuing tenders for technology and consulting services in July, with the core migration work to begin in October. SuSE Linux, a unit of Novell, and IBM worked closely with officials on their Linux decision and hope to supply, and maintain, the open source software and possibly hardware.
The Bündnis 90/Green Party has called on government officials handling the tenders to enlist the support of small and medium-size vendors. The party's IT expert, Jens Mühlhaus, said in a statement that the City of Munich should be careful not to replace "one monopolist" with another "global giant". The city aims to complete the migration project by the end of 2008, Mühlhaus said.
Christine Strobl, an IT expert with the Social Democratic Party and a member of the City of Munich IT Commission, warned of challenges that lie ahead. While agreeing to the benefits of migrating to open source software, Strobl said in a statement that the integration of Linux and other office applications into the many different public administration-specific applications will not be an easy task. Many of the applications, she said, have been developed by small companies that have little or no experience with Linux and Web-based services.
Despite some expected difficulties, Strobl said Linux migration is a "number one priority" for the city, pointing to a pilot project under way with SAP. SAP is making changes to the city's accounting department to support the open source OpenOffice suite of desktop applications, which will replace Microsoft's Office software. To ease the Linux migration process, the city has already agreed to consolidate its more than 1,300 software functions, replacing many of them with standardised Web applications, Strobl said.
No one is saying exactly how much the migration project will cost. Charts available in German on the Munich city government's website list 30 million, but city spokesman Plank declined to confirm the exact figure.