MS TCO study fails to dislodge OSS trials from Newham council

They came, they audited, they went away again...

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Despite a determined onslaught by Microsoft consultants Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Newham Borough Council's open source trials have emerged not merely unscathed but expanded from an MS versus Linux face-off this week. And a statement issued by Newham today says that the London borough "has concluded that, in the short term, significant cost savings are not achievable by switching to strategy based-upon Open Source software."

Yes, we know. 'How does that work then?' you're asking. 'How come open source won when they're saying they've decided they won't save anything by switching to it?' We'll explain.

Well, first of all it's a wicked, wicked world we live in, and second, how can you possibly expect Microsoft to approve a press release that says the audit it sponsored has been rejected? You might argue right back here that Microsoft doesn't have anything to do with Newham saying what it thinks, but bear in mind that Newham is still in pricing discussions with Microsoft UK. These will be concluded on December 19th, "and an announcement will be made at that stage." And it's a wicked, wicked world...

The audit of Newham came about in response to Newham's trials of open source software, being carried out by netproject, and as part of the borough's fairly tough pricing discussions with MS UK. Microsoft declined to move on price, but offered to show how using Microsoft's systems would produce lower TCO for Newham than using open source. So the Newham announcement's failure to mention that this objective has indeed been achieved is, erm, significant?

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young proposed a 100 per cent Windows solution for Newham, and at this juncture it seems this proposal has been rejected. Eddie Bleasdale of netproject*, with a certain note of wonder in his voice, tells the Reg that the rival team didn't mention Longhorn at all, nor did it make a great deal of .NET or WinFX.

Which is fascinating, given that this is the new location of the Redmond crown jewels as mapped out at the recent Professional Developers Conference. We - and anyone at Microsoft who's still reading - can derive the useful lesson that the shock troops of the Beast are not particularly up to speed on Microsoft's forward strategies, and that they are not therefore particularly well-placed to reassure customers about the company's future product roadmaps. Which is one of the major areas Microsoft's customers worry about. Second, their reluctance, possibly even inability, to consider heterogeneous implementations commits them to 'all or nothing' games they won't always win.

Bleasdale, on the other hand, has been stressing "you've got to keep your options open" and "it's all about choice," one example here being his recommendation that Newham upgrade to Exchange Server 2003 on the basis that it can operate with both Linux and Windows clients, and therefore supports his own proposed secure Linux desktop solution.

"We're carrying on with the [open source] trial," he says, "and we've recommended a whole series of actions, including server consolidation, and also that the desktop trials be expanded." This is still simply a case of "putting Linux computers on desks to prove they work, and there's no way Bleasdale expects (or indeed that he ever expected) a 'big bang' switch to Linux desktops.

The facts that the study is continuing, and that Newham has effectively kicked the ball back into Microsoft's court, shifting discussion back onto pricing, could make for an interesting announcement, post December 19th. Winning an all or nothing game could cost Microsoft UK a great deal, both in immediate discounts to Newham and in the me-too discounts it would trigger elsewhere, but it has already escalated the deal into a major issue, making a dignified climb-down a lot more expensive.

This, incidentally (should anybody from MS UK still be reading) is what SuSE enterprise sales and services VP David Burger reckons was Microsoft's mega mistake at Munich. If the Beast hadn't made such a huge deal of it, SuSE and IBM wouldn't have felt anything like the same need to fight it, and Microsoft losing wouldn't have seemed like such a huge disaster. Your own worst enemies. But we're told the driving at Newham is being done five command levels above the Microsoft point man, UK local government business manager Tariq Shakoor, so they appear not to be learning. ®

* Eddie tells us the OSS migration guide netproject produced for the European Commission has now had 90,000 downloads in the English version,, and that it's now also available in French and Spanish. Where it's available is not entirely clear, but as he's sent us a copy of Guide IDA de migration vers l'Open Source, it must be true. Up shortly, no doubt, 'Ah! ça ira...'

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