The LiMux Project in Munich

Published on: 20/11/2008
The German city of Munich is migrating its computers to open source and GNU/Linux, both on desktops and servers. Rather than lowering IT costs, the main motive is the desire for strategic independence from software suppliers. A soft migration was chosen over an abrupt transition, and by 2012 more than 80% workstations will be migrated to GNU/Linux. In May 2008, the city released its Wollmux template management system as open source software under the EUPL on the OSOR platform, which is perhaps its most widely acclaimed success so far.

Policy Context

When in 2003 Microsoft announced to end support for Windows NT 4, the city of Munich had to make a decision in which way to go for the future of the IT system. As the costs for migrating to a proprietary system would have been largely the same than a migration to an open source system, which offered independence, the city decided to chose the latter. More control of the IT system, also with regard to cost incurring in the future, was the decisive factor. Legal issues concerning software patents were overcome after the city commissioned a legal study to clarify the patent-related legal risks in 2004. The software Wollmux has been made available to the public under EUPL, as this adapted to the European legal situation.

Description of target users and groups

The project is of relevance for all the departments of Munich's city administration. Many users had not used open source software before, and especially in the beginning training was necessary.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Together with SuSE/Novell and IBM, the city worked out a detailed concept for the migration during 2003 and 2004. During summer 2004, the project was put on hold while a study was conducted to clear up legal insecurities related to software patents. The actual migration has been running since 2005. Most parts of the city's administration choose a soft migration, first installing open source applications. In a second phase, the departments then rolled out the GNU/Linux basic client. This gradual approach keeps the demand for training and support services manageable. By August 2008, 8500 of the city's 14.000 workplaces were using OpenOffice. The final step involves replacing the current operating system with the city's Debian-based variety of GNU/Linux. There are currently 1.200 workplaces running this “basic client”, or almost 10%. Rather than aiming to migrate every single computer in the administration to free software, Schießl says that the goal is “80% + X by 2012”. The remaining computers are currently running Windows NT 4 or Windows 2000.

Technology solution

In the process of the soft migration, the open source programmes Thunderbird, Firefox, and were deployed on all workstations. The city further developed the OpenOffice template 'Wollmux', which provides the city's employees with personalised templates and forms. For the migration of the operating system the city's has chosen a modified version of Debian GNU/Linux in the future. Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

The financial benefits of using an open source operating system applications in the case of LiMux are not felt immediately. During the project there are no savings expected. Controlling future expenses better, and being able to decide if money has to be spend for software in the future will be one of the main benefits of the project in the future. This increased control is expected to reduce IT costs in the long run.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

In April 2008, the City of Munich and the German Foreign Office announced their cooperation on the topic of free software and open standards in public administrations. In a first workshop, experts from both sides highlighted similar interests in the areas of IT strategy, in the migration to the GNU/Linux operating system and OpenOffice. The two organisations are now planning to launch several joint projects. The LiMux project has turned into a beacon of sorts where the use of open source in the public administration is concerned. In the first half of 2008 alone, more than 50 representatives from a dozen other public administrations and consultants have visited Munich to learn about the migration project.

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Essential for the success of the project were two aspects: users have to be ready and accept the change from one system to another, and problems have to be broken apart in small tasks, so can be handled more easily. Lesson 2 - As the use of open source software is new for many people, the act of convincing them of the benefits may turn out harder than expected. Lesson 3 - Following a soft migration, and moving software step-by-step proves to be very successful. Moreover, make pilot projects helps in evaluating possible weaknesses and avoiding those in the future. Lesson 4 - The cooperation with experienced partners, as well as the open source community are furthermore very helpful. Scope: Local (city or municipality)