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Newham and Microsoft sign 10-yr deal

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Microsoft and the Newham Council have signed a ten year agreement - worth at least £5m - making Microsoft the council's software provider of choice.

This is the concluding chapter in a long-running battle between the Redmond based software giant and the open source software community for pride of place in the London borough's IT department. As well as significant upgrades to the IT infrastructure and standardising on one version of Windows, the deal will see social workers equipped with Tablet PCs - part of making home visits more efficient.

It looks good too: the pilot study indicates that using mobile technology in assessments of those in need of social services will save care workers an hour per assessment, and a whole load of to-ing and fro-ing.

One of the deciding factors for Newham in appointing Microsoft as its strategic partner was an IT audit and analysis carried out by CapGemini. Although CapGemini makes a big noise about being independent from Microsoft, the study was indeed funded by the software firm . One of the main conclusions of its research was that as well as being cheaper than OSS, Microsoft is more secure than the open source alternative.

It takes a lot to raise a laugh at an IT press gig, but this news tickled the spot for the journalists at today's press conference in London.

So how did this all happen, when Newham was one of the OGC's standard bearers for open source trials? Let's recap: Newham had brought in open source consultancy netproject to conduct a study of the feasibility of an open source deployment. It recommended that the council deploy a mixture of open source and proprietary solutions, including an upgrade of its MS Exchange server.

Microsoft responded by commissioning Cap Gemini to audit Newham's IT, and to run cost / benefit analyses of both the open source option, and the 100 per cent Redmond solution. The CapGemini report recommended Microsoft, all the way.

Newham said, yes, yes, very interesting, but we still need to talk to Microsoft about costs. Cue very high level negotiations, and the eventual abandonment of the open source trials.

Netproject's Eddie Bleasdale says his consultancy was used as a negotiating tool to get a better deal out of Microsoft. He argues that the council never really intended to deploy an open source solution at all - because it doesn't have the expertise to do so.

Richard Steel, Newham's head of IT, rejects the claim: he says Bleasdale is "inferring things that are not justified by the facts".

But what of this study, funded by Microsoft, which proved so persuasive? We've yet to see a copy of the full report, although we are promised one soon. In the meantime, here are some highlights:

On TCO:

  • Based upon the Gartner TCO tools, the study indicated that an open source solution would provide approximately half the cost savings of a comparable Microsoft solution, but would cost three times more to implement due to significantly increased migration costs.

On migration costs:

  • Migration costs for the Microsoft solution were estimated to be 68 per cent lower than the switching costs of migrating to an open source platform. This was because of higher costs of training ICT and users, the need for additional testing, increased support levels and the costs for converting, testing macros and the 120 office based custom applications that exist within Newham

On the risks of Open Source:

  • Open source vendors are currently experiencing more vulnerabilities and receiving more security advisories than Microsoft. In addition, Microsoft has made a substantial investment in further improving security levels with its Trustworth Computing initiative

One final point to note is that Newham will be using Internet Explorer. Steel explained that this is because Microsoft is very serious about addressing security concerns. ®

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