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08.11.09

Microsoft Migrations Without Approval

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 3:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Servers

Summary: Insight into Microsoft’s infiltration into Free software-dominated datacentres

OVER the past couple of months we have written a lot about the curious case of Switzerland, where Microsoft was chosen by the government without even opening up to bids from other companies. This was covered in:

  1. Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
  2. Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
  3. 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
  4. Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
  5. Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
  6. ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
  7. Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
  8. Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
  9. Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
  10. Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
  11. Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements

The latest development in this case is rather discouraging.

A preliminary ruling around the legality of the Swiss government’s decision to allow a software contract to be awarded to Microsoft without any other vendors being asked to tender has found in favour of the tech giant. But open source supporters should still hold out hope, according to legal experts.

Here is a newer update:

Swiss Government Has Microsoft ‘Dependency’

[...]

Also commenting on the ongoing case, Karsten Gerloff from the Free Software Foundation said that the Swiss department concerned should break free from its dependance on one vendor.

“Free Software offers users strategic control over their infrastructure. This problem is by no means limited to Switzerland. Across Europe, it’s quite common for public bodies to either hand out contracts to proprietary software vendors without a proper public bidding procedure,” he said in a blog posting.

The case above is a familiar one and it happens not only at governmental levels. From two separate informants of ours we have learned that the same thing is happening in academic institutions. Based on administration/teaching stuff at two universities, we have gathered a sort of picture of how Microsoft is taking over IT services without the consent of those who will be affected.

One person tells us:

Here’s a funny. I was in a meeting today and some Windows guys were discussing Sharepoint. The boss asks “what are the disadvantages of Sharepoint?” One guy immediately says “It’s not open source.” but then goes on to say “You can use templates anywhere …” as if that makes up for it not being open source. Another of them said that “It’s Microsoft-only.” with all that implies in terms of not playing nice with others. Considering the source, that one was a good answer, but I almost laughed out loud at the first one. [...]

At random, another story I heard today:

Microsoft Exchange Is MIT’s New Email System
http://tech.mit.edu/V129/N29/webmail.html

I don’t know whether it’s more surprising that a renowned technical school like MIT would go to Exchange as their mail system in the first place or that it took them so long to say “Me too” to go with all the other Ivy League schools that have already moved to Exchange. Truthfully, this is a disheartening trend. We haven’t yet moved to Exchange as “the e-mail system”, but we already have occasional problems with mysteriously disappearing e-mail, odd IMAP server behaviour, incoming mail that may bounce unpredictably and lack of an audit trail for troubleshooting. The most disheartening things are the loss of commitment to open standards and the consequent discrimination in favour of proprietary software.

[...]

I could have asked a third question of the MIT move to Exchange: why make this move now when it’s clear that Microsoft is losing momentum and many are moving to open source solutions instead?

This was also the context of the discussion on Sharepoint. We already have some open standards, non-Microsoft solutions in place for problems spaces such as Wiki, file sharing, personal Web pages and ticketing. Now, because there are a few projects which require Sharepoint, the boss is considering scrapping all of these other systems and moving to the Microsoft system (i.e. the one ring to bind them.) I suppose he thinks he would be saving money that way. In that case, it’s even funnier that he didn’t ask the usual questions about TCO first.

The truth of the matter is that our CIO just quit and the future is uncertain. It’s an open question about whether he got pushed out, but his superiors clearly did prefer Exchange for e-mail. The former CIO generally did not like Microsoft and tried to keep them at an arms length away even though of course the vast majority of people use Windows as the client operating system. We have Exchange, but the former CIO was pressured into implementing it. I certainly hope that the new CIO, who is so far unknown, doesn’t bring a “prefer Microsoft” or an “aggressively promote Microsoft” philosophy. The boss is probably trying to prepare for that eventuality.

Ivy League schools may be the exception and the United States in general is moving away from Microsoft more slowly than the rest of the world. So we asked another person who may be familiar with the situation.

Someone who was in a similar position wrote:

Funny, the critique of Microsoft imitation of the following did not mention any of the serious complaints: Microsoft Sharepoint is expensive as hell, has a byzantine licensing scheme incurring per seat costs (CALs), is slow as hell, has lots of down time, runs only on a virus-susceptible OS, loses data, is hard to use, does not work with non- Microsoft systems and only marginally better with Microsoft systems.

Here are the systems their dialog should have covered:

O3Spaces

Lenya

SugardCRM

Alfresco

Main pyrus

Nuxeo

Also, if you dig (you will have to) you can find that Sharepoint and .NET at the epicenter of the catastrophic, total, prolonged failure of electronic services for several chains of banks. Sharepoint and .NET were loudly touted as miracles up to the changeover. The day of the changeover, things fell down and did not get back up for many months. Money could not be received, money could not be transferred out, and on the rare occasion it could be access was not limited to the account owner!

The original dialog matches last year’s tactic of agreeableness and misdirection. Microsoft people learned to say “you are right …” followed by a paraphrase of the problem or accusation. Most people would assume, wrongly, that the admission would lead to corrective action. Nope. It lead to more of the same. If the “you are right”+paraphrase response was followed up by asking what they were going to do to fix the problem, then the response was angrier and aggressive.

Furthermore we learn:

I did some asking around and found out that this project to deploy a big rollout of Sharepoint has been in the works for a long time. The decision has already been made…

Standard Microsoft marketing: present Microsoft as inevitable and a done deal. Also, it is typical for Microsoft to plan and scheme in secret for a long time and build up base before going public. Outsiders, those not on the pro- Microsoft bandwagon, will not get anything other than double talk.

First step: Identify the individual staff responsible for introducing that mindset. Organized crime is organized crime with or without a computer and the counter measures are well-established.

… and the only thing that is preventing it from happening is the current economic climate …

That, and the fact that it won’t work and there would be backlash.

If it is rolled out now while Microsoft has a weaker grip on the populace and everyone is looking for non- Microsoft alternatives, the team trying to claim credit for the work will end dangling from lamp posts. Microsoft minions are working like mad to ensure that decision makers are unable to find out about the original technologies and those that do manage to find out are kept isolated from those who can deploy them.

… and commensurate lowered budget allotment for IT. This is the ” expensive as hell” point above. Microsoft wants about half a million dollars for a full scale deployment.

Fire the people who even considered proposing Sharepoint. They’re working against his company. It’s like Peoplesoft, you can only win by walking away early in the game.

… Indeed. What’s so ironic is that we already have neutral 3rd party vendors for our file sharing and wiki services, we use straight Apache (with perhaps PHP and Tomcat) for personal home pages and most other Web sites and we are deploying Drupal as a portal for this fall. What are they thinking? To replace all of those perfectly good, open standards platforms with something that has many problems of its own just because a few projects need it and it has that “magical” shiny Microsoft label?

Yes. That’s probably what they are thinking, if they are thinking. Religions and movements usually are more about feeling than thinking.

What can be done with such people who put their political movement’s agenda in priority over their own employer’s or even their own nation’s? It is about saving your nation, double entendre included and addressing the Microsoft political movement preventing it from damaging further the nation’s economy and sovereignty. Those clowns are putting a lot of people out of work to fund their monkey business. I’m surprised that analysts like Naomi Klein haven’t latched onto the part that the rolling
failures caused by Microsoft products play in the “shock doctrine” and its use in sedition.

As further input from one person we have:

I believe the slippery slope to this madness began when we agreed to entertain Exchange and then the decision was made to switch everyone to it. These decisions were imposed on us from above, which is how Microsoft typically infests enterprises. This is yet another sign that higher education in the US is becoming more corporate (including an “intellectual property office” which licences patents from University-sponsored research.) [...]

Starting in the early ’90′s, I began to hear stories of enterprises that adopted Windows due by management fiat. Generally, Microsoft was considered the enemy of technicians. In these stories I heard, Microsoft would make a pitch to the CIO’s group with the ploy that their applications and servers would work more smoothly because they also designed the client operating system. Nonetheless, the CIOs often weren’t swayed by that argument because they knew that their product was generally inferior and they were wary of being too beholden to one vendor. In that case, they would go above the CIO’s head and pitch their wares directly to the CEO and then they were generally successful.

I believe that a variation of this is what happened at my university. Our CIO did not care to use Exchange campus-wide but instead wanted to sell it to departments as a premium service for which they would be billed. The first bad thing to happen is that many people were unhappy with the Oracle calendar system we used and there was a sense of uncertainty about how committed Oracle was to the product. Ergo, Exchange became our calendaring platform. The second bad thing which happened was that a new administration came in and they wanted Exchange. They told us in effect “either you run Exchange for us or we will have someone else do it.” Next, the economy went south, the budget for IT was cut and the administration told us “we see no reason to support 2 different mail systems, so we want to standardise on Exchange.”

Around the same time, the administration wanted to deploy a couple of applications written by some other academic institutions and, for these, Sharepoint was a required component. At some point afterwards, the decision was made to standardise on Sharepoint. My guess is that the logic was the same as that used for the decision to standardise on Exchange. Overall, the big push for migration to Microsoft servers at my university was provided by the administration. Our CIO has recently decided to leave and I also suppose that he saw too much meddling in his decisions from above and decided that his position became much less attractive as a result.

Any more experiences from people? There ought to be commonalities we can all learn from. I too wrote about the subject.

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4 Comments

  1. rs said,

    August 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Gravatar

    First step: Identify the individual staff responsible for introducing that mindset. Organized crime is organized crime with or without a computer and the counter measures are well-established.

    In Portugal he has a name: Joice Fernandes, who after being responsible for ensuring the Microsoft-addiction of the Portuguese public administration, was promoted to world-wide director for public administration lobby division, now sediated in Portugal.

    Oh… and the Government is so proud that Microsoft choose Portugal… *sigh*

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, also for the HQ, right?

  2. Jose_X said,

    August 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Gravatar

    I’d like to know more about the bank failures.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    So do I. It was scarcely covered and it happened in Denmark (at the least). If you manage to find information about it, please share(point).

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