[FSFE PR][EN] What happened in Munich

press at fsfe.org press at fsfe.org
Wed Mar 1 13:58:37 CET 2017

 = What happened in Munich =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2017/news-20170301-01.en.html ]

On 15 February 2017, the city council of Munich, Germany convened to
discuss the future of their LiMux project. In its public session, the
plenary voted to have the city administration develop a strategy to
unify client-side IT architecture, building atop a yet-to-be-developed
"Windows-Basis-Client". A translation of the complete decision is
included further down.

The opposing parties were overruled, but the decision was amended such
that the strategy document must specify which LiMux-applications will no
longer be needed, the extent in which prior investments must be written
off, and a rough calculation of the overall costs of the desired

Since this decision was reached, the majority of media have reported
that a final call was made to halt LiMux and switch back to Microsoft
software. This is, however, not an accurate representation of the
outcome of the city council meeting. We studied the available
documentation and our impression is that the last word has not been

We succeeded thus far in forcing the mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) to
postpone the final decision, and this was possible through the
unwavering pressure created by joint efforts between The Document
Foundation, KDE, OSBA, and the FSFE together with all the individuals
who wrote to city council members and took the issue to the media.

Although the mandate is highly suggestive in that it suggests that the
existing vendor-neutral approach is to be replaced with a proprietary
solution, it leaves the door open; Or are you aware of a commonly-used
software standard that ensures maximal compatibility in all directions?

The new mandate buys us some time. And we will keep going.

 == Background information ==

What lead to this public hearing on 15 February? In 2014, Dieter Reiter
was elected new mayor of Munich. He had referred to himself as
"Microsoft fan" even before he took office. He prides himself with
having played a major part in the decision to move the Microsoft Germany
headquarters to downtown Munich. He started to question the LiMux
strategy as soon as his term started, and asked Accenture, a Microsoft
partner in the same building as Microsoft, to analyse Munich's IT
infrastructure. The report can be found here [1] (German). It's
noteworthy that in their report, the analysts identify primarily
organisational issues at the root of the problems troubling LiMux
uptake, rather than technical challenges.

The coalition of SPD and CSU filed a surprise motion with minimal lead
time before the city council, with the goal to put LiMux to rest once
and for all.

 == Our reaction ==

Given the importance of this matter, an ad-hoc coalition of The Document
Foundation, KDE, OSBA, and the FSFE collected questions about this
motion [2] (German), as well as the processes that lead up to it. We
reached out to all members of the city council prior to the public
hearing. Additionally, we sent a call for action [3] (German) to all our
supporters in Germany and Austria, asking them to get in contact with
politicians on this issue. The reaction was phenomenal. During the
public hearing, politicians quoted some of our question, and said that
they had never received as much input from the public before.

Thank you everyone who made this happen!

We also generated quite a bit of press coverage this way, not only in
Germany, but also in other parts of the world. An incomplete list of
press coverage can be found here [4]. Please share with us any
additional material you might know about.

 == Conclusion ==

LiMux suffered from organisational problems, including lack of clear
structures and responsibilities, which the Accenture report also makes
clear. These are independent from the software used on client machines,
and switching operating systems will not solve them.

LiMux as such is still one of the best examples of how to create a
vendor-neutral administration based on Free Software. The project was
started 13 years ago when the city had to replace their no longer
supported Windows NT4 workstations. Since then, they migrated 15.000
workplaces to vendor-neutral Free Software solutions, and Open-Standard-
based file formats, supported by local IT companies. Overall this
initiative displays not only a successful move to more independence, but
also serves as role model of how to strengthen the local IT industry. By
solving the organisational problems only, Munich could continue to
successfully foster not only an independent administration but also a
strong and healthy IT landscape.

 == Our goal ==

We understand that LiMux has not solved all problems, but we maintain
that the root of the problems are of organisational nature, and thus
must not be confounded with the technical choices.

Public infrastructure must stay independent of singular commercial
interests, that are known to stifle innovation. Free Software provides
the unique opportunity to invest into common assets and benefit from
everyone else's contributions, while staying in control of what gets
deployed, and when. Local service providers operating in healthy
competition boost the local economy and ensure best use of tax payers'

We also note that the trend moves away from client-side operation to
more centralised infrastructures, which operating-system-independent use
across multiple devices and users' browsers of choice. It may turn out
best for LiMux to adjust its focus, while the vendor-neutral strategy
must prevail.

 == The modified motion, as passed on 15 February ==

The following conclusion was reached (overruling the opposition by Die
Grünen - rosa liste, BAYERNPARTEI Stadtratsfraktion, Freiheitsrechte,
Transparenz und Bürgerbeteiligung, ÖDP, DIE LINKE, LKR und BIA):

The motion filed before the plenum by SPD and CSU shall have its section
6b (new) extended, as shown between the *** markers:

"The administration shall without delay propose a strategy how to unify
the city's client-side IT architecture by 2020-12-31, building on a yet-
to-be-developed 'Windows-Basis-Client'. Baseline functionality (word
processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, PDF reading, e-mail
client and Web browser) needs to be provided by commonly-used, standard
products, which must guarantee maximal compatibility with existing
internal and external processes, as well as other software
infrastructure (such as SAP).

*** The strategy must be clear on which applications on LiMux-Basis will
no longer be needed. The city council is to be informed on the extent
that this requires write-offs of prior investments. Furthermore, a rough
budget to illustrate the costs associated with the unification is to be
presented. The city council will then make a final decision. ***

Throughout the transition, the various departments are free to deploy
the new, unified solution building on the 'Windows-Basis-Client', or
continue using their existing, multi-tier (Window/LiMux) solution,
depending on technical status.

Strategic goal must remain that administrative tools shall be usable
independently of the client-side operating system (e.g. web apps,
virtualisation, remote desktop services)."

The original decision is only available in German and can be found here
[5], augmenting the original motion [6].

 1: https://www.ris-muenchen.de/RII/RII/DOK/SITZUNGSVORLAGE/4277724.pdf
 2: https://blog.schiessle.org/2017/02/14/rolle-ruckwarts-in-munchen-diese-fragen-sollte-man-sich-stellen/
 3: https://wiki.fsfe.org/Activities/LiMux/CallForAction
 4: https://wiki.fsfe.org/Activities/LiMux
 5: https://www.ris-muenchen.de/RII/RII/DOK/TOP/4372059.pdf
 6: https://www.ris-muenchen.de/RII/RII/DOK/SITZUNGSVORLAGE/4367152.pdf

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