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The city of Munich chose to migrate to Linux in 2003 because Microsoft would not support the software they were using. Recently the head of the project (called LiMux), Florian Schießl, reported on why the project was taking longer than previously expected. An article on H Online describes the situation well.

The problems were, perhaps, avoidable. Suitable planning and incremental testing would have avoided the problems that Munich has experienced so far.

One problem was with proprietary servers that do not work well with open source clients; one in particular that Florian mentioned was DHCP. A proprietary DHCP server would hand out leases that were incompatible with the Linux clients.

Another problem was with applications that needed to run on the client. For example, some applications required ActiveX which is unavailable on Linux. Another example was the dependence on many Visual Basic macros (VBA) in Microsoft Word.

With a revised plan since 2007, the migration has gone much more smoothly and rapidly. Departmental migrations are now begun with a pilot project, and the Munich’s computing infrastructure is being overhauled as well.

Munich’s experience can be a lesson to the rest of us. What can we learn?

  • Test with infrastructure before rolling out.
  • Test with internal applications before rolling out.
  • Update or migrate infrastructure if needed.
  • Use a pilot migration to work bugs out before a full migration.

UPDATE: USA Today had an excellent article in 2003 describing the initial process whereby Linux was chosen for Munich – and Microsoft’s drastic measures to try to beat out Linux.