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'Independent' report used MS-sourced data to trash OSS

'Microsoft gave us this stuff, but we haven't checked it'

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When Microsoft announced victory in its battle with open source for the hearts, minds and wallets of Newham council last month, the press naturally asked to see the report Newham's decision was allegedly based on. Er, yes, the report would be forthcoming, we were told. So we gave it a few days, and asked again. And again. And again. But mysteriously, although Microsoft executives are prepared to shout from the rafters about what's in the report, the report itself never seems to arrive.

Fortunately, there are ways to get hold of documents that have been presented, as the report was, to public bodies, so if Microsoft is still unable to find it, then The Register is now in a position to help them out. And an enlightening read it is, too.

But we'll parse the spun versions first, and remind you of The Facts as we go along. According to Microsoft's press release of last month, "Newham's decision to partner with Microsoft follows an extensive platform evaluation at the Borough, in which the merits of, and overall value offered by Microsoft's software were rigorously assessed by Capgemini. Capgemini were selected to conduct the evaluation by Newham, and ran the evaluations as an independent third party."

Fact One: None of this is untrue, as such, but a study by Capgemini, funded by Microsoft, was Microsoft's offer during pricing negotiations with Newham last autumn. Note that Cap Gemini's brief was to assess value offered by Microsoft software, and that it ran its evaluation as an independent third party. The Beast chooses its words carefully here.

It continues: "The Capgemini report predicts the solution could allow the council's ICT team to maintain its current level of service while reducing support costs by 13.5 per cent, a saving of £3.2m over five years."

Fact Two: Note that we're still on Microsoft software here, so the claimed £3.2m saving is derived from a migration from the current Windows infrastructure to Windows XP, Office XP and Windows Server 2003. The numbers themselves, the Cap Gemini report reveals, are produced by running Newham's stats through a "cost model based on the Gartner Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Analyst 5.0 tool and the Gartner TCO Chart of Accounts." One wonders why they didn't just hire Gartner.

But next, we get to the tricky bit: "In addition, the Capgemini study found that the Microsoft solution could double the cost savings associated with improvements in productivity compared to an Open Source solution. It offers lower administration costs, improved security and increased productivity for users. What's more, the commercial solution will also provide a predictable, sustainable and long term IT funding model for transformation, which will protect the Borough's investment."

This one's intriguing, because it appears to contradict the known facts about what was being studied, by whom, at Newham last autumn. Cap Gemini was doing a study of Newham's current Windows setup, while consultants netproject were engaged in a more long term exercise concerning the borough's future IT strategy. The open source one was netproject (which incidentally did not recommend an immediate rip and replace in favour of open source), and the Windows one was the Cap Gemini one. There was no study involving a direct face-off of Windows and open source, far less a level playing field one. So where the blazes did the savings over an open source system come from?

Fact Three: Er, Microsoft. According to the Cap Gemini report Microsoft seems unable to find, "Microsoft have also offered figures for a (current configuration) to Linux migration that they have generated from the same Gartner model using input data validated with the ICT group. We have not independently validated these figures. However, we feel it is right to include them in this report so that Newham is aware of them and can choose whether or not o [sic] consider them in any judgement they may make about their future strategy.

"By using Gartner's methodology in this way, Microsoft believe that a desktop migration to an open source solution based on a Linux Platform could potentially generate lower operating costs for Newham in the region of £350,000 per annum. This shows potential cost savings to the council over five years of £1.6m, or roughly half that available from the deployment of a Microsoft based solution." (our italics throughout)

Here as you can see it's Cap Gemini's turn to be careful about the wording; it has its good name to consider after all, and can't be seen to just shove in a bunch of data handed to it by Microsoft without pointing out that it's nothing to do with Cap Gemini. But the bottom line is that the headline 'finding' of the study is based on data submitted by Microsoft but not verified by Cap Gemini and is specifically qualified by Cap Gemini as Microsoft's 'belief.' Cap Gemini itself simply concluded that Newham could save a heap of money by switching from Microsoft to Microsoft, and said it was up to the council whether it gave any credence to Microsoft's figures or not.

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