Munich Linux Migration Project LiMux Reports Success

LiMux, a project to convert local government institutions to Linux and open source software in Munich, has exceeded initial expectations. The project has done slightly better than projections of 8,500 and now boasts 9,000 Linux migrated workstations. The progress and evolution of this project that began in 2003 is well worth examination.

LiMux is the name of both the migration project and a specialized Linux distribution. The LiMux distro, which is based on Ubuntu, is certified by the German government for use in both government institutions and private businesses. I've long been an advocate of this approach, and I wish that more was being done in the UK and the US to ratify a standard national Linux distro.

It's nice to be able to report on this success story after the disappointing news, earlier in the year, that the German Foreign Office had abandoned its Linux adoption plan in favor of a return to Windows and other proprietary software. One thing that the community has had to learn is that celebration upon hearing the announcement of a plan for Linux adoption is sometimes premature. The news that migration has been successful and is going well is a more reliable indicator that Linux is establishing a foothold on the desktops of government workers.

In a 2010 webpost, Florian Schießl, one of the architects of the project, admitted that they had underestimated the difficulty of the task and labeled their initial approach “naive”. When the project was first set in motion in 2003, there were found to be 1000 IT workers in 51 data centers serving 33,000 staff. Part of the problem was that the proprietary software that was in use was far from being as homogenized as most people would have guessed. As Schießl says:

"No common directory, no common user, system or hardware management. Different tools for software distribution and system management. More than 300 apps, many of them redundant, e.g. using Dreamweaver, Frontpage, Fusion etc. for HTML-editing. 21 different Windows clients, different patch levels, different security concepts. This was Munich’s IT situation when LiMux started."

So, as part of clearing the way for Linux and open source adoption, the team have to had reorganize government IT policy to move it away from the rag-tag collection of mismatched systems that had organically evolved. Don't forget that in addition to operating systems and applications, a project like this one has to consider document formats and templates. Schießl considers the focus on ODF throughout the organization and across different platfroms to have been a big help for the project as a whole. To help with this, the LiMux project has created WollMux, an open source template creation plugin for OpenOffice.

A lot of attempts at large migrations to open source software seem to be so focused on the software and hardware that they tend to forget the other other important factor: people. Forgetting to win over the staff seems to be a common trait of migration projects that fail to accomplish their goals. From 2008 onwards, the LiMux team began to adopt a more considered approach to migration, beginning with smaller deployments and lots of data gathering in order to gauge success.

Overall, it's good news and a project worth studying by anyone interested in large scale migrations to Linux.

The official LiMux page (English language)

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