Force disturbed

Munich Linux desktop falls victim to failed IT centralisation


The city of Munich is preparing to switch 18,500 workstations running Linux to proprietary operating systems over the next 2 to 4 years, in an renewed attempt to centralise the city’s 22 IT departments. A plan detailing the costs and consequences of changing the suite of office productivity tools will reach the city council later next year. In the meantime, the city will continue to use LibreOffice.

On 8 November, Munich city council confirmed the turnaround it first announced in February. The switch is part of a renewed reorganisation and reshuffling of responsibilities in the city’s many IT departments. The city estimates the total cost of overhauling the IT department and changing IT systems to be EUR 89 million.

According to the city council decision, the IT department will standardise IT processes, methods and tools to fit the needs of every council unit and in-house operation, as revealed by a future survey. At the moment, Munich’s central IT department cannot force any of the city’s IT departments to use the software it has selected and keeps up to date. In practice, this means some departments continue to run outdated software, or use alternative applications.

Lighthouse out

Last month’s decision to scrap the Linux desktop was covered widely by the IT trade press, who reported on the loss of one of the world’s best-known Linux projects.

Munich’s well-known Limux project, officially concluded in 2013, saw Linux implemented on 15,000 of the city’s 18,000 workstations. Funding for further development of the Limux desktop project, including migration of additional workstations and promotion activities, ran out in 2014. Earlier this year, the number of Linux workstation had increased to 18,500 workstations. The number of desktops running proprietary operating systems increased from 3,000 to 10,700.

In the coming months the city will further analyse the changes to its office productivity tools. Effort, costs and procedures will be validated by external experts before a proprietary alternative replaces LibreOffice. “The results as well as a complete migration concept should be submitted to the City Council again by the end of 2018 for decision,” says the proposal adopted by the city council. In the meantime, the city will procure 6,000 licences for a proprietary office suite - possibly violating German and European procurement rules.

The city of Munich, a major contributer to open source, runs an older version of LibreOffice, version 4.1, which the LibreOffice development project has declared obsolete. The Munich version of LibreOffice is kept running by the city’s IT department, which has so far back-ported over 300 changes.

More information:

Munich city council proposal (PDF, in German)
Heise news item (in German)
Heise news item (in German)
Golem news item (in German)
Techrepublic news item
Techrepublic news item
Zdnet news item (in French)
Muy Linux news item (in Spanish)
Il software news item (in Italian)
Computer Sweden news item (in Swedish)
OSOR case study

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