CERN, the research organisation that operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), this week announced its intention to move away from Microsoft's productivity software in favour of open source offerings, under its Microsoft Alternatives (MAlt) project.
Established one year ago, the project was a result of Microsoft's decision to move CERN from an academic pricing scheme - something the research organisation has enjoyed for the last 20 years now - to a more enterprise-centric per-user licensing scheme. This has increased CERN's cost of using Microsoft's software by 10x and is, as system architect Emmanuel Ormancey writes, "unaffordable in the long term."
The research institute has therefore decided to explore ways of reducing or even eliminating its dependency on commercial software by employing open source alternatives. The project has the following goals in mind:
- Deliver the same service to every category of CERN personnel
- Avoid vendor lock-in to decrease risk and dependency
- Keep hands on the data
- Address the common use-cases
Ormancey explains that many other research institutes are experiencing similar dilemmas and CERN will be leading the pack in trying to come up with cost-effective solutions to the problem. The project has already moved from planning to the deployment of a "pilot mail Service for the IT department and volunteers this summer", with plans for an organisation-wide deployment soon. "Skype for Business clients and analogue phones will migrate to a softphone telephony pilot," continues Ormancey.
CERN has negotiated a 10-year ramp-up profile with Microsoft to slowly increase the costs accrued by the particle physics laboratory for use of the latter's software. During this time, MAlt program will see CERN personnel migrating from various IT services and software packages provided by Microsoft to open source ones, some of them made in-house by CERN employees.