Applying the European Commission's 'Guide for the procurement of standards-based ICT' will not be enough for public administrations to get rid of IT vendor lock-in, says Jutta Kreyss, IT-architect for the German city of Munich. "Standards alone are insufficient for any non-simple IT project. To get out of the vendor-lock in, one has to use standards and open source."
Kreyss spoke to the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, in Brussels, on Tuesday. From her own experience, the IT architect told the parliamentarians that even if the same SQL standard was used in database systems, that does not make it possible to switch easily from one proprietary database management system to another. "The EC thinks demanding the use of IT standards will fix this? It is not true."
Next, the IT architect told the Committee members that the EC is one of the big inhibitors to public administrations like Munich. "We often have to deal with requests from the EC that force us to use a proprietary operating system and office suite. And that is not just expensive. The European Commission should accept and work with the open document format ODF."
The IT architect is one of the authors of a briefing note for the Legal Committee, on Munich's successful migration to an open source IT architecture. The switch includes replacing the software used on 14,200 desktop PCs. These are running Ubuntu Linux and the free and open source office suites OpenOffice and LibreOffice. The document describes the origin and organisation of this project, the stakeholders and the lessons learned.
Summarising the report, Kreyss on Tuesday explained the EP that political support is essential. "The main reason for such a project to fail is the lack of political support." Munich's IT department first completed a centralisation of 22 IT departments, she said. After, the city standardised applications and IT management, involving all 33,000 employees, working in 51 locations across the city. In case of conflicts, meetings where convened in the office of the mayor. "You can imagine how helpful that is, in getting it done."
Stay the course
Munich's IT architect recommends that other public administrations that wanted to battle IT vendor lock-in should consolidate and then first free their office tools. "Afterwards you can replace the operating system. And keep on standardising even when it is difficult, for instance when dealing with the European Commission."