The "U" Word

Making Windows safe for Unix people since 1995


Migrating to Linux is far more expensive than expected

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Just read an article about the experience the City of Munich is having in migrating from Windows to Linux. Apparently, the migration project has run into some serious snags and cost overruns in the areas of secuity, compatibility, and stability. They're also getting hit harder than they expected for training costs.

The city council is demanding an investigation, since they were promised “cheaper”. Apparently some people have forgotten that even during the final project bid process the Windows solution was known to be less costly, since Microsoft apparently dropped trou' on pricing.

My guess (based on personal experience with Unix, Linux, Windows, and watching dozens of customers try to migrate in both directions) is that, when the project is completed, the City of Munich will discover that the project cost more money with Linux than it would have with Windows even at the original bid before discounting. The cost of becoming ones own operating system development and application testing shop is huge and on-going, to the extent that there isn't enough calendar time to amortize and recover the expense.

(And I so enjoyed reading the comments attached to the article, too. Everything from Linux fanboy flamage to “Microsoft is still evil” flamage to “The playing field still isn't level” whining to... )

  • Something tells me this could go either way. Correct me if I'm wrong but they were already on Windows, right?

    If Munich had been on Linux then staying on Linux probably would've been cheaper than migrating to Windows. The real cost hit they're taking (my guess) is in re-training everyone. It's a bigger cost than most places anticipate.

  • I suspect you could replace that headline with "Implementing organization-wide deployment of software is far more expensive than expected" without any loss of accuracy. I can't think of a single large-scale rollout of any softare I've seen that's come in at or near cost projections.

  • "Implementing organization-wide deployment of software is far more expensive than expected" -- yes. It will be true for "Longhorn" as well, just as it has been true for all previous New Microsoft Stuff. Change costs.

    Of course, we won't see "Rollout of Microsoft System X far more expensive than expected" on ...

    At work, we've got NT4 and Win2k servers, w/o AD; Exchange 5.5.; Win2k + Office 2k.

    With XP and Office 2003, AD, Exchange whatever, etc., on new Dells, it's *all new stuff*, with new GUI, new management tools, new apps, migration of data, etc. It'll mean lots of work and money, and retraining users. "Longhorn" will be more radical.

    This is all true if we switch to Macs, as well. If we're getting all new stuff, what's the real advantage of getting MSFT stuff rather than other stuff? That's it's MSFT stuff isn't really a feature.

    "New stuff expensive; employees don't like change." -- there's your headline.

  • Actually, Biff, many current studies show that upgrading to new versions of Windows continues to be substantially less expensive than migrating to any other platform. Even Longhorn.

  • Which studies? Sponsored by who?

  • Latest two I recall weren't sponsored by anyone. Many research firms are growing weary of defending themselves against charges of bias because someone pays the freight for a study, so they're doing more unsponsored research. (They'll probably do less of it, because research is expensive, but that's life.)

    I'll try to find the study reference I'm thinking of.

  • Try this unsponsored Yankee Group report:

    There are others.

  • From the article:

    "At companies with 5,000 or fewer users, Linux can save more money than other systems, including Unix and Microsoft's Windows software, said the Boston-based company."

    And this:

    "Clearly, many people who have Linux like it a lot, but if you propose a wholesale swap to most large companies, you're looking at a significant up-front cost, and many executives are asking why they should do it," said Yankee analyst Laura DiDio, who authored the report.

    ... which is true of any migration. It was true of even DOS -> Windows, Win9x -> WinNT, WinNT -> Win2k/XP

    What did Microsoft say -- their biggest competitor is their own installed base?

  • I would certainly disagree with Alex's final comment (about the "wholesale swap" costs being large even for WinNT->Win2K/XP; in fact, the quoted article and Yankee Group report support the statement that WinNT->Win2K is cheaper.

    DOS -> Windows? It was a very different world back then. Costs of upgrading Win9x to an NT-based system are still less than a swap to a non-Windows system; if you look at the kinds of costs discussed in the article and in the Yankee Group report, you can see that some of them just don't apply in the 9x upgrade case.