CERN turns to open source software as Microsoft increases its fees

Large Hadron Collider

Large Hadron Collider

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is a huge organization using some of the world's most powerful particle accelerators. The knock-on effect of that is the licensing fees CERN needs to pay to use Microsoft's software line-up have increased "by more than a factor of ten". It's quite the change for CERN, which has been using Microsoft's products for the last two decades. 'However, recently, the company has chose to revoke CERN's academic status, a measure that took effect at the end of the previous contract in March 2019, replaced by a new contract based on user numbers, increasing the license costs by more than a factor of ten.

As reported by the Register, CERN has been working on MAlt for some time, well-aware that its discounts as an "academic, non-profit or research institute" were coming to an end.

CERN didn't say why Microsoft had chose to revoke its academic status, but in any case it's clearly not happy about the extra costs. Since this cost increase is not sustainable, CERN chose to launch the MAlt project to find open source software that reduces cost over the years.

MAlt's goal, said Ormancey, is "to minimize CERN's exposure to the risks of unsustainable commercial conditions".

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According to a ZDNet, the implementation of the scheme will begin this summer with a pilot of an open source mail service, initially for volunteers and the IT staff. That will be followed by an organizationwide migration. In addition, it's planning to ditch Microsoft's Skype software for a "softphone telephony pilot".

MAlt isn't the first time a major organisation has looked to switch away from proprietary Microsoft software: The government of Munich announced that it would move to the Linux-based LiMux operating system and an open-source productivity suite back in 2004, but in 2014 confirmed that it was moving back to Microsoft - aided, it would appear, by a deal which saw Microsoft move its German headquarters to the Bavarian city, bringing considerable investment and job opportunities. For example, many of its systems are hosted on OpenStack-based clouds. It also created its own Linux distribution, called Scientific Linux, though this is being discontinued in favor of CentOS.

The main aims of MAlt are not only to move to open software, but to deliver the same service CERN personnel are used to while avoiding vendor lock in and keeping full control of any data.

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