Berlin says 'nein' to open-source migration

Berlin has rejected demands by the Green Party to migrate computers in the German capital to free open-source software

The German federal government in Berlin, which is an advocate for open-source software in the public sector, may have some lobbying to do at its own front door.

The Berlin city government, at a hearing Thursday, rejected demands by the Green Party to migrate computers in the German capital to free open-source software.

"The city leaders really don't get it," said Olaf Reimann, responsible for IT issues in the Berlin wing of the Green Party. "With open source, the city could save money, reduce its dependency on Microsoft and even create jobs for small and medium-size IT companies in the region."

Reimann referred to a study on the use of open-source software in Berlin's public sector, which was commissioned by the Green Party and conducted by Bernd Lutterbeck, a professor at the Technical University of Berlin. One of the study's key points: Berlin could reduce IT costs by more than 50 percent if it migrated to open-source software. The city, which has nearly 60,000 computers, spends around US$340 million per year on IT.

The study also points to economic benefits of not being tied into Microsoft's licensing policies and software upgrade strategy.

At the hearing, Berlin city officials reiterated their preference for using a mix of open-source and proprietary software products -- for economic and performance reasons -- and pointed to issues with the city's public tender policy about mandating a full migration to any one software platform.

"The city has missed an opportunity to change its IT landscape and become less dependent on a single vendor as the City of Munich has done," Reimann said.

Last year, Munich began replacing Windows operating system and Office products with Linux and software on about 14,000 desktops as part of its LiMux open software project .

In 2002, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and IBM Deutschland GmbH signed a deal that allows public sector groups to receive discounts on IBM computers preinstalled with the open-source Linux operating system.

Otto Schily, interior minister at the time, referred to the agreement as a "milestone" in the government's efforts to create a diverse, open software landscape in the public sector.

The federal government has since developed guidelines for the public sector to migrate computer systems to open-source software, in a move to further boost interest in the software. The new guidelines, based on several open-source projects, present various steps and measures that ministry IT experts view as essential for open-source software to be deployed successfully in the public sector.

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