Subject: Re: support for a small US college going GNU?
From: "David Kaufman" <david@gigawatt.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 21:19:27 -0400

Hi Joe,

Joe Corneli wrote:
> I've been corresponding a little with the new CIO of my "alma mater"
> (New College of Florida, a small public "liberal arts" school in
> Sarasota) about switching the college over to GNU/Linux [...] the CIO,
> Erich Matola, points out that switching architectures would require
> funding.  Presumably this is true;

Of course.  Not switching requires funding, too.  Funds are used to 
periodically upgrade staff PC's in different departments at different 
times, adding memory, more storage, or completely new machines, as the 
older ones become too old to be useful.  Funds are expended to upgrade 
those same PC's to more recent versions of Windows, as this user needs 
some new feature or that one needs some new program that is not avilable 
on the older version of Windows.

Ask the CIO to ask the CFO for a report of past expenses, per year, for 
PC hardware upgrades and new copies of whichever Windows Upgrade was new 
that year.  Then explain to them that Linux upgrades are free and, since 
Linux tolerates older hardware far longer than Windows does, all those 
O/S upgrades won't necessitate corresponding *hardware* upgrades to 
battle the "my PC got slow" reports that come in after the XP upgrades 
go out.

Total the money they will save in one year *not* having to buy on 
Windows licenses and, say a (conservative) third of the PC workstation 
upgrade expenses that year together, and see if that isn't enough to 
cover the consultants needed to implement the switchover, train users 
*and* maintain servers with some change left over.  Figure out if the 
break-even point is one year or two years, before the savings really 
start to kick in.

If you find that the Windows license expenses are (curiously) far too 
small to account for all the windows machines in use (because they don't 
"track those closely enough") or because they "just use the O/S's that 
come with the new PC's" and then "share" a few upgrade CD's among them 
all later on as needed, offer to walk around with him and take a quick 
count of the number of Windows machines *running* XP or Server 2003 as 
compared to the number of machines that were purchased *with* those 
latest versions of Windows, plus the number of retail Windows upgrades 
they actually bought, and you can quickly see out how much it would cost 
for them to "get into compliance" with their current use of Windows 
licenses, were they to need to do so in a hurry, as per the audit 
agreements they've agreed to, by merely tearing open Windows shrinkwrap.

Be sure to point out that most, if not all, corporate IT departments and 
small businesses also find that they have easily, even unintentionally 
fallen out of compliance because it is nearly impossible to track, and 
MS licenses seldom enforced.  But ask them, why run an O/S that has such 
a high legal risk attached to it?  One that has only *seemed* affordable 
because all the staff you hire (and in fact the industry in general, and 
some whole nations) think nothing at all of pirating it on a regular and 
systematic basis?  Not mentioning any names, at most of the school and 
corporate IT departments I've seen... that getting-into-compliance 
number is a truly scary one, especially to their lawyers.

Lawyers, by the way, who will be fully on board with funding the switch 
sooner rather than later, once made aware of the risks that are being 
taken.  Perhaps not so much just a few years ago, but nowadays I'd think 
the cost of switching to any operating system that is free as in 
BSA.org, would be CFO and Legal no-brainer, even if not already a CIO 
priority.

-dave