Posted by James Utzschneider
General Manager, Worldwide Marketing and Operations

We use this blog to talk about Microsoft’s approach to Openness and our investments in standards, interoperability, and integration with open source software. We do this because we have changed as a company and have become more open.  

Many of our government customers are listening to this and clearly recognize the value we bring in terms of our approach to openness and interoperability.

It has been common practice for government agencies over the last decade to announce the prescriptive use of open source technology as a way to cut costs and deliver better value to citizens while driving innovation and stimulating the local economy.  Some government organizations made large-scale reviews and deployments of open source software, particularly on the desktop, only to find that this approach alone did not provide the expected cost-saving or returns on interoperability or benefits delivered.

At the same time, these agencies saw a Microsoft that was investing heavily in working with open source vendors and communities, in supporting standard document formats like ODF, in building rich integration with Linux on the desktop and the server, and in mainstreaming the new stack of web standards like PHP and HTML5. Many of these agencies realized they could have the best of both worlds and subsequently augmented or even replaced their open source-only deployments with Microsoft technology. They like that we have made a commitment to ensure our technology works well with others combined with the overall platform value we deliver. 

I am in Berlin today meeting with members of the German Parliament and speaking at the LinuxTag open source conference. The conversations I am having here reinforce for me that the decisions made by governments around open source were done with the absolute best intentions for their citizens and communities in mind. However real-world experience, combined with a changing Microsoft, have led government leaders to realize that there is now a better way, and governments across Europe including here in Germany are evolving their approach on this topic.

Here are just a few recent examples of government and education customers who are publically discussing their choice of using Microsoft:

Ministry of Education and Culture, Brazil – A rural school pilot project replaced an open source solution with Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 to create a technology learning lab that supports multiple remote users sharing one host computer simultaneously. The school deployed 17 host computers and have reduced costs, expanded interest in learning, and increased exposure to technology for both students and teachers.

Department of Education, Philippines – The department realized a Windows infrastructure would be 33 percent less expensive to deploy and support. Now students are better prepared to join the workforce, teachers save time developing teaching lessons, and school administrators can expedite report creation.

City of Reykjavik, Iceland - IT leadership considered open source alternatives, such as Linux Enterprise Desktop and OpenOffice to lower license costs. After comparing costs, the city selected Microsoft technologies as its unified infrastructure and desktop solution. By selecting the lower-cost solution, IT leadership has aligned its strategy with the broader vision of Reykjavik’s economic recovery.

Municipality of Sarpsborg, Norway – In order to improve services and accessibility for citizens, the municipality migrated from disparate open source solutions to Windows Server, Exchange Server, and Microsoft Systems Center. They describe their new solution as simple and transparent, noting that “all the parts talk to each other” now.

Terengganu State ICT, Malaysia - Currently over 90,000 students have their own PCs with Windows, Office and other Microsoft technology, and the economy is benefiting from assembling the PCs locally. The state is taking advantage of programs that will help it extend the reach of ICT in schools and local communities to ensure technology is at the core of its education and industry initiatives.

Government of the Punjab, Pakistan - The government deployed more than 4,200 school laboratories in less than 4 months and all 36 districts of Punjab, realizing a cost savings of $5 million USD. The project team evaluated Microsoft alternatives, including OpenOffice and Linux, but chose Microsoft for its support services and the potential to bridge the digital divide. Punjab Project Director Joudat Ayaz said the new curriculum and technology “will ensure all students can access IT-based education, meaning they will have the skills to compete in the global market for employment, and, ultimately, help create a stronger economy.” 

Tatweer Education Program, Saudi Arabia - The education program needed a standardized, secure email system for 6 million students and a collaboration platform for 500,000 teachers that combined on-premise and cloud-hosted environments. They considered Google apps and open source solutions, but chose Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft security services to align with Saudi Arabia’s data security requirements and to protect students from inappropriate Internet content.

St. Lucie County Public Schools, USA - The public school district affordably standardized its IT environment, moving away from a mixture of duplicative open source solutions to Microsoft Exchange Server. Previously, “our IT staff had to really work to get all those programs to work together,” said David Jasa, IT program manager. “We wanted an integrated approach, one in which we could just pay for and support a single set of flexible products that worked well together.” The result is better data integration and streamlined business processes, allowing St. Lucie teachers and administrators to focus on providing high-quality education for the 40,000 students they serve.

Today, almost all of our customers run open source technologies and Windows side-by-side.  Rather than replace one technology with another, many of our customers find that open source and Windows work better together (we have lots of those case studies, too – you can find them here).

Do you have a Linux Server workload?  Virtualize it on Windows Server Hyper-V.  Do you build apps with open source development tools such as Java and PHP?  Build your Java and PHP apps on Windows or Windows Server.  Do you want to host your open source projects in the Cloud?  Run them on Windows Azure. 

Here are a few stories of customers using Microsoft and open source together:

Government of Albania - By hosting the applications in a private cloud environment based on Microsoft technologies, the agency has found that its current resources—both technological and human—are ample. Government users now get better, faster, and more reliable application services.

City of Maykop, Russia  - The city initially migrated the city’s IT-infrastructure solely to open source solutions but switched back to a Microsoft and open source mixed environment in order to address and resolve issues with user satisfaction, product integration, lack of support, and increased staffing and workload.

Florida Atlantic University, USA - When Florida Atlantic University (FAU) hit its third round of state-level budget cuts, it knew that it had to fundamentally change the way it delivered IT services. By using Linux Integration Services for Hyper-V, FAU is able to run the critical Blackboard curriculum management application on the Linux operating system and improve performance. It has also been able to reduce costs by U.S. $600,000, expand services with no increase in staff, and improve the availability of IT services and the user computing experience.

City of Milwaukee, USA - The city needed a better, less expensive way to manage a growing IT infrastructure, so it adopted a Microsoft virtualization solution that includes the Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V virtualization technology supporting Microsoft and non-Microsoft systems such as Linux. Now, the city’s IT staff is 50 percent more productive, enabling it to handle a growing infrastructure without additional staff. Licensing costs are less and the servers operate better— uptime is up by 10 percent, to the favorable notice of internal users and developers.

In short, the industry has moved on – and heterogeneous environments are often the norm.  At Microsoft, we have moved on from the old debates and demonstrated our commitment to openness, interoperability and open standards across a range of technologies. This will continue in the evolution of our Cloud platform.  Want to deliver value to your citizens?  Want to do open source?  Do it with Microsoft. And then tell us your story. We’d love to hear from you.