Microsoft Mum on Munich Migration Study

Munich’s multiyear migration to Linux has been nothing if not an ongoing saga over the past decade or so, beset as it has been by stops, starts, and various twists and turns.

The story appeared to have a happy ending in November when Munich reported that using Linux had already saved it more than 10 million euros, but last week Microsoft spoke up with a different tale.

Munich would have saved more than 40 million euros if it had stuck with Windows and Office 2003 rather than switching to its LiMux distribution with OpenOffice, German weekly Focus apparently reported.

‘For Internal Purposes Only’

Linux Girl

Turns out Redmond commissioned a special study of the topic after Munich’s enviable savings were publicized last fall, but here’s the kicker: It now refuses to release that study to the public or the press.

“The study was commissioned by Microsoft to HP Consulting for internal purposes only,” Microsoft’s German communications manager Astrid Aupperle reportedly told ITworld.

Bottom line? Something’s rotten in the state of Munich, more than a few Linux bloggers now suspect.

‘They Mostly Made Stuff Up’

“A useful saying in cases like this is that ‘Figures never lie, but liars always figure,'” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien told Linux Girl.

“The tell here is that they refuse to release the study,” O’Brien explained. “If Microsoft had a valid study showing this, they would be paying to print it in every newspaper in the world.”

By refusing to release it, however, “they make it clear that they mostly made stuff up,” he concluded.

‘You Can Smell the Bovine Fecal Matter’

Similarly, “don’t believe Microsoft for a second,” Google+ blogger Linux Rants agreed. “Even looking at what has been released to the public, you can smell the bovine fecal matter emanating from this ‘Study.’

“Microsoft pays for a study to have HP go in and find that Microsoft would have been cheaper, but the study isn’t public? It would have been cheaper for Munich to stay with Windows XP and Office 2003? For how long?” Linux Rants mused.

“XP came out in 2001 and Office in 2003 (obviously),” he pointed out. “Microsoft is expecting Munich to stay with more than 10-year-old software for the next 10 years just to come close to competing with the price point of switching the whole operation to Linux, and that’s only because Munich already owns that software!” he exclaimed. “The original purchase expense doesn’t factor in!”

In short, “even Microsoft’s bought-and-paid-for study can’t make a convincing argument,” Linux Rants concluded. “Obviously nothing to see here. We should all just move along.”

‘Utterly Silly’

Indeed, “remember ‘Get the FUD’ and other classics from M$?” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “This is more of the same. No doubt M$ helped edit the final drafts.

“It’s utterly silly to ignore licensing costs of M$’s OS when Munich would have upgraded to XP and ‘7’ from NT over the years,” Pogson added. “If they are not releasing this thing publicly, I expect they will let their salesmen distribute it to special customers as needed to stave off massive migrations to GNU/Linux.”

All in all, “no matter how large the cost of migration, avoiding paying M$ licensing fees forever makes it worthwhile because upgrading with a package-manager rather than re-installing is so much easier,” he concluded.

‘One-off Software’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn’t so sure.

“If ALL your company uses is a browser and a spreadsheet and it doesn’t have to be MS Office compatible? Then yeah, Linux can probably do the job,” hairyfeet opined.

“But most businesses are NOT like that; they have a ton of ‘one-off’ software custom-written for them, so ALL of that will have to be converted,” he added. “Depending on the size of the org, that can be several hundred thousand to several million.”

‘More Can Be Done on Linux’

Last but not least, Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, took a higher-level view.

“Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the study was correct on figures, but my experience is that such numbers tend to be used by Microsoft in misleading ways,” Travers told Linux Girl.

“The fact is that migration tends to be expensive both in the short and medium run,” he explained. “The cost isn’t what’s required to get back to the base functionality, but the fact that often more can be done on Linux, which tends to cost more in IT but may save money elsewhere, or lead to other important benefits.

“Often outsiders think that you just replace Windows with Linux and a migration can be done this way, but to really leverage Linux, often a great deal more has to be done in terms of rethinking the general IT structure,” he pointed out.

‘A Strategic Investment’

In fact, “the studies I have seen (and this does include the various studies that Microsoft pushed in their previous ‘Get the Facts’ campaign) show that many organizations which migrate end up treating it not as a simple cost-saving migration but as a strategic investment,” Travers pointed out.

“This means extra costs for consultants, but it also means that one often gets a much more closely tailored solution than one could get with commercial software,” he noted.

“This strongly suggests to me that if folks are paying more, it is not because they have to so much as they expect benefits from that investment,” Travers concluded. “These benefits are often realized down the road, and they come in many forms, ranging from greater flexibility in operations to more efficient operations.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


  • Hairyfeet’s claim that enterprises would have to rewrite *all* of their custom software to move to Linux is clearly a worst-case rather than typical scenario.

    My current employer moved hundreds of desktops to Linux, including several million lines of custom apps, with very little rework – because those apps were written in Java, Python and Perl.

    Only teams foolish enough to develop their custom apps in Microsoft-proprietary technologies are stuck on the burning platform (so to speak). The rest of us are free to optimize for best ROI – which this year, in our case, was Linux.

    • Because as somebody that has supported SMBs for years and did corporate for quite awhile before that I can tell you that your company? NOT in any way shape or form the norm.

      What is the norm is usually this Frankenstein’s monster mix of in house and solutions to various problems written by all these different companies and let me tell you if you think MSFT’s formats are bad? Then you haven’t been down in the trenches much because their formats are like an open book compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen.

      At the end of the day it ALL comes down to the simple fact that the cost of the OS means practically nothing to most businesses, when you look at all the other costs the price of Windows and Office don’t even make it into the top 30 of most budgets. What DOES end up costing a mint is getting all the data out of the funky formats and paying somebody to rewrite all the software from scratch or having to hire somebody to write replacements for all the software that a business uses that does NOT exist on Linux.

      Ms. Noyes left that part of our conversation out which better illustrates why FOSS doesn’t work for most businesses. if your business depends on Photoshop then Gimp will NOT work as a substitute, if you run your business on Quickbooks then GnuCash will NOT cut the mustard, and what of all that specialty software like medical transcription and billing that is designed to be HIPPA compliant? Doesn’t exist at all on Linux, warehouse inventory management and the software for writing sermons and the program required to process credit cards for insurance companies, we are talking about BILLIONS of dollars in highly specialized that simply DOES NOT EXIST in Linux and the cost of having it written instead of just buying COTS is just not worth it just so you don’t have to buy Windows.

      So I’m sorry but when you look at Linux and the kinds of programs it has its quite clear that Linux is a Programmer’s OS, if you are NOT a programmer or your business isn’t built around programming? Well then Linux just isn’t for you. Why do you think there is a billion text editors but no medical transcription software?

      • I wonder how old your corporate experience really is. I have over 30 years, and while I wouldn’t pretend to speak for "most businesses" as you do, my experience is almost certainly broader.

        Have you ever wondered why Java is such a popular language in the corporate world? Think!

        Ms. Noyes probably left out your tired old schoolyard taunt of Photoshop rulez, Gimp droolz because it’s beside the point, as is your grim determination to turn the discussion back to the old "cost of the OS" canard.

        Corporations turn to Linux in vertical markets where custom software is key, where actual security matters, where hard real-time drives the bottom line, and where scalability and flexibility is as important as time to market.

        Windows won’t vanish any faster than Cobol, but it has certainly achieved the same unenviable reputation for being yesterday’s technology. The die is cast, and the fading desktop and Office monopolies are all that Microsoft has left.

        • It depends on the SIZE of the corp, if you are talking a place with over say 4000 seats, your Fords and Amways and other supermegacorps? Then YES they do have their own servers and most of the apps are client/server and as you say a lot of it is platform agnostic.

          But for every corp that is 4000+ seats you have a thousand companies that are 750 seats or less and it is THOSE places where I have my experience. When you are talking SMB they just don’t have their own programming teams, they are buying COTS or having something made for them and most of that is NOT FOSS.

          Again if your company makes its living with Photoshop there is nothing in FOSS that will replace it, same with Quicken/Quickbooks and the bazillion custom made small apps. Hell I have a company that I had to set up XP Mode in Win 7 because the company requires an IE 6 Intranet app to process applications. And there are a billion little programs just like that that for better or worse require Windows to do their work.

          Of course this is a double edged sword for MSFT, as these companies won’t be able to use WinRT anymore than they can use Linux, too much requires X86 Windows for them to just switch to ARM and go anywhere.

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