Yesterday I began a new subject in my M.Sc. on Libre Software, and we had a talk presented by Eduardo Romero Moreno, who talked us about the migration to Libre Software in the Zaragoza city council, the talk was very interesting and entertaining, and as activity of our subject here I write about this talk, the main topics, data, advantages and disadvantages of the migration, etc.
This notes were taken in real time in my class, the lecturer talked in spanish and I translated and wrote at the same time, so maybe you can find a few mistakes 😉
Also I attach a pdf (created and formatted using LaTeX) if you prefer this format.
1 Government agreement
In 2005, all government groups of Zaragoza city council expressed under unanimously the support to libre software policies and using of libre software in this administration.
2 Libre software scope
In this city council, they use both libre software and privative, it depends on the scope that they must use software in determined areas.
For example in virtualization they use VMWare which is privative instead libre alternatives like VirtualBox or others.
And for example they use Red Hat Linux in Servers because is the one certified by Oracle in their databases.
In the web scope they use libre environments and allow to anyone get the data used in this scope. Open data is the movement named around the globe for this action. Also they release all this data under several formats like xhtml, excel, pdf, csv, etc.
The environment of this city council is:
• 3000 desktop pcs.
• +60 servers
• +100 “municipal centers”
In the buy of systems, there is serious problem that is the compatibility between brands and gnu/linux, ie: if you buy a Brother 5 print writer, this brand doesn’t run with GNU/Linux. By this case they have agreements with sellers since companies ensure the complete compatibility in the systems sold with gnu/Linux.
They have managements systems for libraries that only runs under windows, and it’s a problem, so they try to have complete compatibility.
The diverse connectivity is a problem, ie: if they want to distribute OpenOffice 6 that is packaged in 300MB, this is not a problem in the city council in Zaragoza, but could be a big problem in sites with a very lo bandwidth.
Is a problem the complete ignorance in libre software in the public administrations.
By this case, they planned the roadmap in three phases:
• Light apps (Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, Vlc, Filezilla, etc.) Migration to light privative apps to complete libre software apps. It begins in 2006.
• Office suite (OpenOffice). Migration from MS Office ’97 to OpenOffice. It begins in 2007.
• GNU/Linux (Operating system) with AZLinux . Migration from MS Windows XP to GNU/Linux (AZ Linux). It begins at last 2008.
With that incremental phases along the years users don’t feel too disturbed, and the change is minimized a lot.
At first you must to know what you get, so you must to have an inventory of the amount of applications that the city council uses.
Also, with the software inventory, they create an hardware inventory of desktops and servers.
The Spanish company Emergya, have a live CD which is used to create an inventory of hardware and software from any PC. This data is sending to a database and with this information the inventory is created in an easy way.
The management change is very important for people both users and technicians, and is also different the actions to make in every case of this.
The Zaragoza city council developed a paper (a little notebook) when it’s explained in an easy way the libre software applications that the migration have to use.
The change is something that generate anxious to people, in fact, is common rumors about migration ie: how hard is the migration, changes, courses that users have to take, etc.
Also is important explain to users what is libre software the advantages of this software, etc. with this explanations people are more comfortable about the migration.
Is good use with this notebook other ways to communicate the benefits of libre software ie: the grandmother cookbook about libre software.
Also users feel that libre software is only something free, so they could believe that libre software is less useful and wore than privative software, but when they know that libre software also generates money, they change their opinion.
Other important thing is give formation to technician and users, of course the formation is different between this two kind of users. To users technicians offer to users to give support with any problem.
AZLinux is a GNU/Linux distribution made by the city council technicians; the develop of this distribution began in 2005 with a prototype and reach the mature age at last 2008. Although
today is under continuously develop.
Is important how to get resources on libre software.
In the case of teaching, is a necessity to find teachers for give this information, today maybe can be common, but in 2005 there wasn’t.
Also they needed to buy hardware, so is important to know about these resources.
New hires in the city council also was necessary, and by this cause they get new incorporation of 6 technicians. Actually they have 7 libre software technicians in the libre software team and 8 the AU team.
Now they have hired a consultancy service over different systems and how it runs.
5 Migration phases
5.1 Phase 1: Light apps
This was an easy migration, with the use of documentation and support from technicians the migration was OK without many problems.
5.2 Phase 2: Microsoft Office to OpenOffice
The main problem is the change on formats, the change regarding open formats. Migrate between .doc to .odt and the use of .pdf.
They tried to any users change to OpenOffice to use .odt format, but this is impossible so they explained to user that at least they export their created .odt into .pdf to any user can see it.
Into the “Disposición 1331 del BOE num 25 de 2010“ it’s patented the mandatory use of open standards and complementary other types of standards (including privative ones), so is mandatory use of open standards instead privative ones, then ie: .odt would be the main format, and .doc would be complementary.
Another section in this document say the mandatory use of open standards and only in the case that don’t exists open standards, would be possible the use of privative standards, but only if open standards don’t be created, and this case there isn’t actually because, for example exists .odt.
The migration to this suite also includes macros to generate automated tasks.
There was a big problem between MS Access and OO Base since there isn’t correspondence between access documents and OO Base, so it was a big problem. To correct this problem, they decided to use Wine in GNU/Linux to use Access on it.
But of course, the new database applications that years ago were built in Access now are built in OO Base.
Also they use tools to export data from .mdb (Access format) to use in OO Base, and for this case, they hire an external company to create a customized application to performs the export.
5.3 Phase 3: MS Windows to GNU/Linux
They began with the use of SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 in AZLinux 1, but they changed to OpenSUSE 11.2 for AZLinux 2.
They had many problems with the support of SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, so the decision of change regarding OpenSUSE 11.2 was regarding this problem. This version has the support of the community.
In servers they have a problem because they use Novell Netware for the network and the Novell connector, and both are privative products, so they have a free desktop but they can’t use free software in their servers until they systems team change Novel Netware for other libre alternative.
Other important things that they have adapted in their own gnu/linux AZLinux are:
• LDAP access with a Novell client.
• Certificates in the Zaragoza city council/FNMT/DNIe.
• Apache, Yum, Django. MIGASFree Distribution Software >> Recently release under free software terms.
There are several cases (like Access problem) where GNU/Linux not runs well with other apps, so there are to use emulators or similar like Wine or VMWare. Why they chose VMWare instead VirtualBox… by ignorance…
MigasFree is an application developed by the technicians which allows release configuration regarding the system configuration and applications.
6 Some numbers
• 3000 machines.
• 100% Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird.
• 100% OpenOffice 3.1. (Officially doesn’t exists MS Office!!).
• 19% DNU/Linux (550).
• 100% Z@aragoza Accesible (open pcs to any citizen in Zaragoza city council) (55 PCs).
• Save money on licenses >> Save more to medium/large time.
• More independence, more flexibility.
• Open formats >> National law.
• Desktop >> More control minus virus.
• Creates web local technology.
• Ignorance on Libre software >> FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt).
• Internal effort to the adaptation.
• Effort on Change management.
• Hostile TIC Ecosystem.
• Insufficient coordination between public administrations.
9 Change in the attitude
At the beginning the team in Zaragoza city council, the attitude was only to get resources (free libre software) without give nothing at change. Now the attitude is mutual, get resources and give resources to the libre software community.
In 2010 begin the collaboration with Cenatic. With this collaboration this team collaborates with Cenatic in several sections like mailing lists, twitter account, forums, etc.
In this year also they signed an agreement with URJC to teach to their students the experience on this work.
Also the team collaborates with CESLA/ASOLIF and with other companies, institutions, communities and governments.
Migration on the libre software desktop. The team explain its experience and collaborate on it in a book.
10 Keys to the success
1. Good managemenet:
• Understand what is Libre Software.
• Change management.
2. Resources. Both people and money (systems, machines, support, etc.).
3. Government support.
• Website: http://zaragozaciudad.net/azlinux/
• email: email@example.com
• twitter: @azlinuxzgz
And that’s all, I hope you like this summary about this experience on migration to libre software.
See you my friends!!